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Hidden Gem weddingexpect I started reading the Kitab-i-Iqan (Book of Certitude) again this week.  It is one of Baha’u’llah’s most important books, and I realized that I hadn’t spent enough time with it, especially in light of questions that have been coming my way recently. I strongly recommend picking up a copy of Hooper Dunbar’s A Companion to the Study of the Kitab-i-Iqan if you really want to get into it.

shadowpen visit floatdangerous “A model of Persian prose, of a style at once original, chaste and vigorous, and remarkably lucid, both cogent in argument and matchless in its irresistible eloquence, this Book, setting forth in outline the Grand Redemptive Scheme of God, occupies a position unequalled by any work in the entire range of Bahá’í literature, except the Kitáb-i-Aqdas, Bahá’u’lláh’s Most Holy Book.” -Shoghi Effendi, God Passes By darkgood

villagebetween there toothanytime watch “The significance and essential purpose underlying these words is to reveal and demonstrate unto the pure in heart and the sanctified in spirit that they Who are the Luminaries of truth and the Mirrors reflecting the light of divine Unity, in whatever age and cycle they are sent down from their invisible habitations of ancient glory unto this world, to educate the souls of men and endue with grace all created things, are invariably endowed with an all-compelling power, and invested with invincible sovereignty. For these hidden Gems, these concealed and invisible Treasures, in themselves manifest and vindicate the reality of these holy words: “Verily God doeth whatsoever He willeth, and ordaineth whatsoever He pleaseth.” -Baha’u’llah, Kitab-i-Iqan

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Arts and music

computermap visit I had the opportunity to volunteer at the 4th Annual Baha’i Choral Music Festival in May. It was wonderful to see so many people at the House of Worship. I was manning the main entrance for both performances, so I got to see everyone. rainmilk threatscience A number of my dear friends went on the Voices of Baha tour in India in June. Imagine 120 singers from around the world, traveling around India in the heat of summer just to sing! Seeing the photos and video made me wish I was with them.

bitpopular there

coinsupport I purchased my copy of The Baha’i Gardens by my friend Marco Abrar a few weeks ago, and received a copy of this gorgeous book soon after. It is a coffee table book that I think everyone should have. It has beautiful photos of the Baha’i Holy Places in Haifa & Akka, Israel, and it nearly brought tears to my eyes as I looked through the pages and remembered my time there.

newspapertype robput Speaking of photobooks, you should definitely pre-order Hasten Forth, a photobook that takes you on a journey of Haifa and Akka, by my Haifa companions (and lovely friends) Ginous Alford and Anis Mungapen.  I can’t WAIT until my copy arrives! sorrysorry

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Food things

enemybox When I was little, I loved bleu cheese salad dressing.  If ever given a choice, I would choose that.  I don’t know why, especially because I find it rather revolting now (especially since it usually contains gluten).

busylower visit Most salad dressings are too thick, contain ingredients that make me sick, or are just unhealthy.  I have never been a “salad for a meal” type of person.  I’ll throw down some steak and potatoes with no hesitation.  But in the summer I often have a craving for something lighter. What to do? structurehundred The other day I noticed that my glass bottle of olive oil had about 1 cup of oil left in it.  I removed the plastic insert at the opening of the bottle, and added:

repairreally watch 1/2 cup of lemon juice
1 tsp basil
1 tsp oregano
1/8 tsp chili powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/8 tsp black pepper

nineplenty check Then I shook it up. I now have homemade dressing that I keep in my fridge, and I love it.
Over the last few years, I’ve just picked up whatever Persian tea was easily accessible. My mother tends to mix her own tea, but I don’t have the skills for that. Recently I received some Anisa Tea as a gift, and was stunned to taste something like the tea that is served in Haifa.  The one I like is the “Persian Tradition” blend, of course.

sailvery Do you have a particular kind of tea or flavor of tea that you really love?

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returnmistake O ye who have turned your faces toward the Exalted Beauty! By night, by day, at morningtide and sunset, when darkness draweth on, and at early light I remember, and ever have remembered, in the realms of my mind and heart, the loved ones of the Lord. I beg of Him to bestow His confirmations upon those loved ones, dwellers in that pure and holy land, and to grant them successful outcomes in all things: that in their character, their behaviour, their words, their way of life, in all they are and do, He will make them to achieve distinction among men; that He will gather them into the world community, their hearts filled with ecstasy and fervour and yearning love, with knowledge and certitude, with steadfastness and unity, their faces beauteous and bright.

stationpaper link -Abdu’l-Baha

medicinesure here

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Follow up

awaywhile there I got a lot of responses about my last post, in many different ways: email, chat, Twitter, Facebook, and, shockingly, real life.  I had no idea that the subject would resonate so strongly.  There were suggestions to delete/deactivate my Facebook page.  To remove “friends” from social networking sites.  To take a break.  And all of these are valid suggestions, and I’m thinking about all of them and how to apply them.

auntfinish there orderpolice visit “Waste not your time in idleness and sloth. Occupy yourselves with that which profiteth yourselves and others.” -Baha’u’llah

The media has been freaking out about privacy in social networking recently, but that isn’t my main concern, OTHER than the fact that most people who use social networks don’t know much about privacy.  I try to be careful about what I share, although I am probably not careful enough!

In my quest to become more mindful of my time usage online, I discovered some things, positive & negative.  I want to reiterate that I’m not hating on the internet, I’m merely trying to be more aware of my consumption.

1. I actually use Facebook to connect people and get information that assists me in my life.  In the last week, I introduced a friend to some folks overseas, connected with a few old friends, found out about a free concert, used it to figure out if friends were still living in the cities that I thought they were in, and introduced people to each other.  In other words, I spent more time acting as a small-scale connector than surfing mindlessly.

2. The glow of the screen at night is not helping me sleep, and it actually distracts me from reading!  My former habit was to fall asleep to a good book. In the chaos of moving so much, I did not have a library card or any of my beloved books with me, and my book consumption dropped.  I am still struggling to get back on track.

3. Being able to access other people’s lives so easily makes one susceptible to gossip & jealousy. It isn’t pretty.

4. I do not like it when people pull out a smartphone or laptop at a party, dinner, or even a casual social event, and start texting, chatting, checking scores, whatever.  Stop.  I stopped getting Twitter updates on my phone because the constant distraction was driving me (and my friends) crazy.  Whatever is happening on the internet or your phone is not more important than the people in front of you.  (I am sure I am guilty of some of this, and I’m working on it!)

5. Ramin gave me a great tip the other day: change your Facebook bookmark on your browser to go straight to your profile page.  My unthinking clicking doesn’t pull me into the newsfeed.  It has worked really well.

6. My real life has been so busy that I’ve not had much of a chance to process photos.  I’m about 250 photos behind right now, which is a lot for me and I’m struggling to catch up.  Honestly, it does not feel like a burden, which tells me that this is one of those parts of my technological life that makes me happy. I just wish I had more technical know-how!

Last night I rode my bike, went to the antique shop and chatted with the owner, got some books at the library, and spent the rest of the evening baking cookies and reading.  I highly recommend this sort of evening once in a while.

What is my action plan now? I’ve reduced consumption of Facebook and Twitter newsfeeds.  I try not to have my computer open in the evening.  Things are not usually so urgent that I can’t leave it for a little while.  My emails are being horribly neglected, but I am attempting a systematic response system.  There is only so much time in a day.  I would rather concentrate my energies on better things.

“Ours is the duty to fix our gaze with undeviating attention on the duties and responsibilities confronting us at this present hour, to concentrate our resources, both material and spiritual, on the tasks that lie immediately ahead, to insure that no time is wasted, that no opportunity is missed, that no obligation is evaded, that no task is halfheartedly performed, that no decision is procrastinated. The task summoning us to a challenge, unprecedented in its gravity and force, is too vast and sacred, the time too short, the hour too perilous, the workers too few, the call too insistent, the resources too inadequate, for us to allow these precious and fleeting hours to slip from our grasp, and to suffer the prizes within our reach to be endangered or forfeited.”  -Shoghi Effendi, Messages to America, p. 101

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Too much information

Facebook makes me unhappy.

Let me explain that.  In the last few months, I realized that the time I spend on the internet is split into two different categories.  The first is social networking like Facebook & Twitter, random entertainment sites, and things of that nature.  The second area is blogs, Flickr, educational sources, and the news.

It is the first area that really gets me, that makes me angry.  I do not feel good when I am spending time on sites in the first category.  Every day I feel more inclined to disengage.

Now, I’ve been bumming around the internet since I got my first AOL screen name in 1997 or so. I’m not against the internet, it is marvelous.

However, there is a subtle drag on my spirit when I read the Facebook news feed.  As a friend put it today, “I just want to live in the moment!”  I am living other people’s moments, over and over, in a stream of information that just doesn’t stop.  I don’t have my own stories anymore, and the stories that I DO have are uninteresting, banal, and incredibly lame.  I feel this insatiable need to know, but I don’t really need to know!

The second category makes me happy.  I like the creative side, I love the tools and education I come across on the internet.  There are so many positive things that have come about because of the development of the web.

A mechanism of world inter-communication will be devised, embracing the whole planet, freed from national hindrances and restrictions, and functioning with marvellous swiftness and perfect regularity.
(Shoghi Effendi, The World Order of Baha’u’llah, 1938)

The internet is a tool, a piece of human creativity and knowledge, but it is becoming life for some.  We reference the collective as if it is alive, as if we are somehow obligated to keep feeding this machine simply because it exists.

I highly recommend Jaron Lanier’s You Are Not A Gadget, it is a fascinating read and a wonderful encouragement to think about the history and modern-day trends of the Internet.

“[You are Not a Gadget] delivers a powerful reminder of the limits of the Web’s capacity to meet our needs-and its power to shape us to its will . . .” -Matthew Battles, The Barnes & Noble Review

I still have not figured out where my frustration is taking me.  I have friends who limit or delete their Facebook profiles, who refuse to even get an account.  I am stuck, in a way.  I use FB to inform, advertise, keep in touch with friends, and keep track of events.  Twitter has enabled me to communicate with friends that I wouldn’t normally have time to contact.  I am so entangled that deleting profiles is almost unthinkable.  Now I must take steps each day to reduce consumption, to slowly wean myself off the flow, and to live my life away from a computer as much as possible.

Stories are not created by sitting by myself in front of screen.  Real thought and contemplation does not happen in status updates and fleeting moments.

I am utterly overwhelmed and consumed by information.

Quite frankly, I’m exhausted.

O friend, the heart is the dwelling of eternal mysteries, make it not the home of fleeting fancies; waste not the treasure of thy precious life in employment with this swiftly passing world. Thou comest from the world of holiness – bind not thine heart to the earth; thou art a dweller in the court of nearness – choose not the homeland of the dust.
(Baha’u’llah, The Seven Valleys, p. 34)
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Peace, Peace

WHENEVER the faithful hear the verses of this Book being recited, their eyes will overflow with tears and their hearts will be deeply touched by Him Who is the Most Great Remembrance for the love they cherish for God, the All-Praised. He is God, the All-Knowing, the Eternal. They are indeed the inmates of the all-highest Paradise wherein they will abide for ever. Verily they will see naught therein save that which hath proceeded from God, nothing that will lie beyond the compass of their understanding. There they will meet the believers in Paradise, who will address them with the words ‘Peace, Peace’ lingering on their lips…

(The Bab, Selections from the Writings of the Bab, p. 62)

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The National Spiritual Assembly

It would be impossible at this stage to ignore the indispensability or to overestimate the unique significance of the institution of the National Spiritual Assembly – the pivot round which revolve the activities of the believers throughout the American continent. Supreme is their position, grave their responsibilities, manifold and arduous their duties. How great the privilege, how delicate the task of the assembled delegates whose function it is to elect such national representatives as would by their record of service ennoble and enrich the annals of the Cause!

(Shoghi Effendi, from a letter dated 3 June 1925 to a National Convention)

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The Baha’i House of Worship – a story about a silk carpet

In looking for quotations about National Convention, I found this touching story.   I remember that a silk carpet was displayed in Foundation Hall when I was a child, but it is no longer hanging on the wall.  I love this story about the House of Worship.  It is an excerpt from “The Priceless Pearl”, the book that Shoghi Effendi’s wife, Ruhiyyih Khanum, wrote after his passing. She attended the dedication of the House of Worship in 1953 on behalf of the Guardian.  I have chosen select passages, but I suggest reading the book in its entirety.

Although the first Temple was built according to ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’í own instructions in Ishqabad during his lifetime, the Guardian assured us that the first Temple erected in the New World was the holiest for all time because the Master Himself had laid its foundation stone during His visit to North America and it had been one of the undertakings dearest to His heart. By 1921, when Shoghi Effendi became Guardian, its foundations had been laid but the building ‘Abdu’l-Bahá had so longed to see erected before His passing was only a hideous black waterproofed cylinder, resembling a gas tank, sticking up above the ground.

The Guardian conceived it as one of his major duties to complete this sacred edifice as soon as possible. It took him thirty-two years to accomplish this task which he called the greatest enterprise ever launched by the western followers of the Faith and the most signal victory won during the Formative Period of the Bahá’í Dispensation. One of his first acts was to send 19 [pounds] to its Temple Fund in 1922, and in 1926 he says he is “joyously pledging 95 dollars per month as my humble share”; throughout the years he frequently contributed towards its erection…by 1923 the Convention was held in what became known from then on as Foundation Hall; to embellish its walls he sent as he gift beautiful Persian rugs from the Shrine of Bahá’u’lláh; until 1928, however, no progress was made in the erection of the Temple. To the Convention held that year he sent a strongly worded message pleading with the American believers to resume the construction of their great Temple and this influenced them to initiate what became known as the “Plan of Unified Action”, designed to raise money for the extremely costly work of the superstructure. In spite of this by 1929 the required sum had not been obtained and Shoghi Effendi, not himself at that time in a position to send a large amount, decided to sell the most precious thing the Faith possessed in the Holy Land. He cabled the Convention: “Am sacrificing the most valuable ornament Bahá’u’lláh’s Shrine in order consecrate and reinforce collective endeavours American believers speedily to consummate plan unified action appeal for unprecedented self-sacrifice.” It was typical of him that he first cabled the Persian donor of this priceless object: “Temple work America progressing three quarters sum required first storey actually subscribed. Strongly feel desirability sale silk carpet you donated. Wire views promptly regarding market and price. Appreciate your consent.” Only when he received a warm answer and advice to sell in New York did he inform America of his decision. So deeply touched were the Bahá’ís by this offering of their Guardian that they raised almost $300,000 before the Convention rose. Fearing that heavy debts might be incurred if the sum for the entire future work was not pledged in advance, Shoghi Effendi would not permit contracts to be signed. However, by the 1930 Convention the sum was pledged, the Guardian consented – and the Bahá’ís wanted to buy the precious carpet themselves, which in the meantime had reached the United States. His cabled replies were typical in every way: “Approve proceed construction entire Temple without external decorations provided believers are determined to consummate their sacrifice by adding decorations eventually. Feel we all should uphold design in its entirety as approved ‘Abdu’l-Bahá.” “Consecrated carpet need neither be sold nor returned. Dedicated as permanent ornament first Mashriqu’l-Adhkar of West.” The Convention, overwhelmed, cabled its “deep gratitude for matchless gift”. The enthusiasm Shoghi Effendi engendered by such messages and acts as these was not produced by policy on his part, but rather by the deep unselfconscious instinct of a born leader with a singularly pure motive and heart…

…Year after year the messages went out and the fabulous Temple went up, until, at the second and last great Centenary to be celebrated during Shoghi Effendi’s lifetime, I was able to read those words: “On behalf of the Guardian of the Faith of Bahá’u’lláh, I have the great honour of dedicating this first Mashriqu’l-Adhkar of the Western World to public worship…I greet and welcome you on behalf of the Guardian of our Faith within these walls…”

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Lost in time

The other day I was searching for something random in the Baha’i Writings, and came across this passage from Baha’u’llah.  It is just fascinating to me, and I thought I might share it with you.  Baha’u’llah explains how language has changed, that there are things we don’t know anything about, but that in the end, we can’t allow the past and its confusion to get in our way.

“And now regarding thy question, “How is it that no records are to be found concerning the Prophets that have preceded Adam, the Father of Mankind, or of the kings that lived in the days of those Prophets?” Know thou that the absence of any reference to them is no proof that they did not actually exist. That no records concerning them are now available, should be attributed to their extreme remoteness, as well as to the vast changes which the earth hath undergone since their time.

Moreover such forms and modes of writing as are now current amongst men were unknown to the generations that were before Adam. There was even a time when men were wholly ignorant of the art of writing, and had adopted a system entirely different from the one which they now use. For a proper exposition of this an elaborate explanation would be required.

Consider the differences that have arisen since the days of Adam. The divers and widely-known languages now spoken by the peoples of the earth were originally unknown, as were the varied rules and customs now prevailing amongst them. The people of those times spoke a language different from those now known. Diversities of language arose in a later age, in a land known as Babel. It was given the name Babel, because the term signifieth “the place where the confusion of tongues arose.”

Subsequently Syriac became prominent among the existing languages. The Sacred Scriptures of former times were revealed in that tongue. Later, Abraham, the Friend of God, appeared and shed upon the world the light of Divine Revelation. The language He spoke while He crossed the Jordan became known as Hebrew (Ibrani), which meaneth “the language of the crossing.” The Books of God and the Sacred Scriptures were then revealed in that tongue, and not until after a considerable lapse of time did Arabic become the language of Revelation….

Witness, therefore, how numerous and far-reaching have been the changes in language, speech, and writing since the days of Adam. How much greater must have been the changes before Him!

Our purpose in revealing these words is to show that the one true God hath, in His all-highest and transcendent station, ever been, and will everlastingly continue to be, exalted above the praise and conception of all else but Him. His creation hath ever existed, and the Manifestations of His Divine glory and the Day Springs of eternal holiness have been sent down from time immemorial, and been commissioned to summon mankind to the one true God. That the names of some of them are forgotten and the records of their lives lost is to be attributed to the disturbances and changes that have overtaken the world.

Mention hath been made in certain books of a deluge which caused all that existed on earth, historical records as well as other things, to be destroyed. Moreover, many cataclysms have occurred which have effaced the traces of many events. Furthermore, among existing historical records differences are to be found, and each of the various peoples of the world hath its own account of the age of the earth and of its history. Some trace their history as far back as eight thousand years, others as far as twelve thousand years. To any one that hath read the book of Juk it is clear and evident how much the accounts given by the various books have differed.

Please God thou wilt turn thine eyes towards the Most Great Revelation, and entirely disregard these conflicting tales and traditions.”

(Baha’u’llah, Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah, p. 174)

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Stuffed grape leaves (dolmeh)

For the Chicago Naw-Ruz celebration I made Persian dolmeh.  I had lent my favorite cookbook to a coworker, and realized that I needed to take another look at the recipe.  A quick Google search confirmed my fear: there were no recipes that matched what I remembered, and certainly no tutorials.  My mother’s mother taught me at a young age how to make dolmeh, and it is one of my favorite foods.  It can be an appetizer or a main dish, and is remarkably easy to make.  I took photos as I went!


1 can grape leaves
2/3 cup rice
1/2 cup yellow split peas
1 tsp salt
1 onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, diced
1/2 lb ground beef or lamb
1 cup chopped scallions
1/2 cup chopped fresh dill or 2 Tbs dried
1/4 cup chopped fresh mint or 1 Tbs dried
3 1/2 cups chopped fresh parsley or 1 cup dried
1/4 tsp black pepper
1 tsp cinnamon
2 tsp lemon juice

1. Wash and boil yellow split peas until soft, about 1 hour.  Stir occasionally.

2. Make 2 cups of white rice, either in a pot or rice cooker.

3. (for meat eaters) Fry ground meat on the stove with onions, salt, and pepper. Drain.

4. Wash all of the greens thoroughly:

5. Then put them all in a food processor and grind until very small.

6. In a large mixing bowl, mix rice, split peas, greens, lemon juice, and meat.

6. Open jar of grape leaves, carefully rinse and untangle them.  I like to drape them around a mixing bowl or colander.

7. Place leaf on a plate, with the veins of the leaf face-up.

8. Put a spoonful of the mixture on the leaf.

9. Fold one side over.

And another side.

Until it is all wrapped and secure, and none of the mix will spill out.

10. Place in a pot on the stove.  I like to put 1 leaf on the bottom of the pot to make sure that none of the dolmeh sticks to the pot, with a little water.

11. Simmer on low with top on for about 1 hour.  The leaves will soften a bit, and there will be steam.  Serve with yogurt for dipping.

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A Haifa morning

This morning was a Haifa morning.

I stepped outside and the air smelled like (home), like stone paths, the bay, flowers, and a breeze off the mountains and desert that lifts you up…

Warm and cool, the kind of cool that only requires a light sweater. Full of excitement.  The gardeners watering plants as I walked up the mountain, past the wall of flowers, the silent woosh of doors as I stepped into the cool stone corridors.

The kind of morning where I would bounce into work, 8:30 am, ready to do what I was meant to do.

It is a little different here, this new home, my new place. My car transports me to work past elegant Victorian homes, antique shops, schools, and the train.  The streets are wider, and I can’t see the water from here (but I know it is close).  After the last few years of being able to sense the water nearby, it seems odd to ever consider living away from water again.  Whether the Mediterranean or Lake Michigan, it seems right to base my orientation on the water.

I wanted to hold onto the feeling of a Haifa morning today, just walk with my eyes closed, pretend that I was still there.  Pretend that the stones were digging through the thin soles of my shoes, that my flatmates and I were rushing out of our apartment to get to work (service), that I would walk up a flight of stairs to the lunchroom at 12 pm and the same old crew would be sitting at a big table.  That I would take a walk around the Arc with a friend, would stop by the Food Center for an afternoon snack, and walk/slide down the steep slopes at the end of a long day to pray in the Shrine of the Bab before going home.  Every late night conversation with my friends, staring out over the lights of a city on the mountain.

This is Chicago, though, I am half a world away and this is life, now.  Some things are the same, and I still drink too much caffeine during the day, and I am working in a job that I love.  This is my life, now.  I don’t write or speak using British English anymore, I’ve reverted back to American.  There are no hills or mountains here.

I am holding close the feeling of a Haifa morning, and feel grateful that I remember what it feels like.

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The magical launch of Nineteen Months

Some of you may remember a little photoblog project I was a part of called “Nylon Parla“.  Well, things have evolved a bit.

Introducing: Nineteen Months.

We are a group of photographers from all over the world who are members of the Baha’i Faith.  The 19 months of the Baha’i calendar each have a name, and the photographs for each month are based on those names.  The first month of the Baha’i year is “Splendour”.

After participating in the nineteen days project for the second year in a row, I am extremely excited about the start of Nineteen Months, as they are sort of sister blogs.  It is an amazing way to practice photography, feel connected with people from all over, and share with everyone our love of the Baha’i Faith and photography in one go!

Please spread the word (blog, twitter, FB, smoke signal, etc).  We are Baha’is, but the photos are meant for everyone to enjoy.

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This is the Baha’i new year (167 B.E.).  I am feeling…settled, at peace.  I seek out peaceful things, spaces, and sometimes people these days.  Other times, I want to be surrounded by crowds.

The Naw-Ruz post for nineteen days is up: AMAZING photos.  I am sad that the project is over, but so glad I had the opportunity to participate.

I spent the day cooking yesterday in preparation for the Naw-Ruz celebration in Chicago.  I will make a blog post about that soon (with photos).  I had an amazing dinner at The Sitdown (they have a gluten-free menu!!) with some lovely ladies, then went over to the Smart museum for the Chicago Baha’i community’s celebration.  After the program of music and prayers, we wandered around the museum for a bit, then there was food and dancing.  I think I danced TOO much.  Exhausted today!

I attended the devotional (prayer) gathering at my friends’ house today, which was small and joyful event, and we laughed a lot.  A nice, low-key day.  I am looking forward to this next (Baha’i) year.

“Praised be Thou, O my God, that Thou hast ordained Naw-Rúz as a festival unto those who have observed the fast for love of Thee and abstained from all that is abhorrent unto Thee. Grant, O my Lord, that the fire of Thy love and the heat produced by the fast enjoined by Thee may inflame them in Thy Cause, and make them to be occupied with Thy praise and with remembrance of Thee.” -Baha’u’llah

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The First Day of the Fast!

As I was reflecting on the Baha’i Fast, I remembered my time in Haifa, Israel.  I was lucky enough to participate in two years of the fast while serving there.  The photo below was taken from my flat one early morning during the fast in 2007 as the sun was rising over the mountains bordering Lebanon.

This year, like last year, I am participating in the Nineteen Days photoblog project.  There are 38 photographers this year, however!  I am SO excited.

A photo book was created from the submissions from last year, which you can order here.

Speaking of photos, the latest photoblog entry from the Baha’i photographers project, Nylon Parla, is up.  The theme this month was “Gifts”.  I’m looking forward to some fantastic changes to the project that are coming next month.

This is, O my God, the first of the days on which Thou hast bidden Thy loved ones to observe the Fast.  I ask of Thee by Thy Self and by him who hath fasted out of love for Thee and for Thy good-pleasure—and not out of self and desire, nor out of fear of Thy wrath—and by Thy most excellent names and august attributes, to purify Thy servants from the love of aught except Thee and to draw them nigh unto the Dawning-Place of the lights of Thy countenance and the Seat of the throne of Thy oneness.  Illumine their hearts, O my God, with the light of Thy knowledge and brighten their faces with the rays of the Daystar that shineth from the horizon of Thy Will.  Potent art Thou to do what pleaseth Thee.  No God is there but Thee, the All-Glorious, Whose help is implored by all men.

Assist them, O my God, to render Thee victorious and to exalt Thy Word.  Suffer them, then, to become as hands of Thy Cause amongst Thy servants, and make them to be revealers of Thy religion and Thy signs amongst mankind, in such wise that the whole world may be filled with Thy remembrance and praise and with Thy proofs and evidences.  Thou art, verily, the All-Bounteous, the Most Exalted, the Powerful, the Mighty, and the Merciful.

– Bahá’u’lláh

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The end of 2009

This Gregorian year was full of changes, travel, friends, family, and many good things. I’ve been avoiding most of the “end of the year” lists that take over our media at this time of the year, but of course I couldn’t help it…so I’m doing a kind of “year in review”. It is by no means comprehensive, as it would be ridiculous to get into too much detail

January & February were mostly cold and mostly uneventful. I celebrated New Year’s Eve Persian style.  I was working a part-time retail job, looking for work. I went sledding for the first time in years.

In March I celebrated Naw Ruz (the Baha’i New Year), traveled to New York City to stay with my cousin and attend an amazing wedding. Fell in love with NYC all over again.

April got more exciting, since I was asked to work at the Baha’i House of Worship as the assistant to the choir director, in order to organize the choir festival (with over 2,000 attendees).  I volunteered at the Baha’i National Convention, which is when the national governing body of the Baha’is in the United States is elected.  I’ve always loved attending Convention.

I spent a lot of time in May with my family, and of course most of my time was spent coordinating the choir festival. I was also sleeping on my friends’ couch, two lovely ladies who saved me from a horrendous commute from my parents’ house.

June was the celebration of a childhood friend’s wedding in Chicago and the start of a new job.  I moved down the street from the Baha’i House of Worship to the Baha’i National Center to my current job, and found an apartment near my office.

Then there was was the 3rd of July BNC staff picnic on the shores of Lake Michigan, going to the beach, and the start of something wonderful.  The middle of summer is always blissful for me!

I mostly remember August in a blur of travel, packing and unpacking.  I went to Nashville, LA, and Seattle for work trips and then to Greenlake Baha’i Conference in Wisconsin. I started off the month with another wedding, and missed a different wedding while I was out of town (count that, we’re up to 4 weddings!).  I also moved to my second apartment for the year.

I celebrated my birthday with a week-long spree in September, starting with a surprise trip to the Chicago Botanical Gardens, then to the Friends of the Persian Culture Conference with many friends and family, and finally with a party at a friend’s house that included delicious food and fire-spinning.

We went apple-picking in October, went to a college friend’s wedding, I dressed as Mary Poppins for Halloween, and attended an amazing seminar on Baha’i administration in Chicago.

I moved to my third apartment in November, got the sickest I’ve been in a long time, and had a lovely Thanksgiving.

December was cold. I started trying to figure out where I am going to live.  A trip to Pittsburgh over Christmas break started the holiday season (it was really nice to get out of town!), and a wonderful New Year’s Party finished off the year.  It has been 3 years since I left to serve in Haifa in December 2006. I can’t believe it has been that long.

It was a good year. I’m grateful and lucky to be surrounded by such beautiful family, friends, and coworkers. I am looking forward to 2010…who knows what is next!

I took ten photos with my camera on my tripod from a hillside overlooking the city of Pittsburgh. With the help of Photoshop, the photos were stitched together.  (view large)

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I think I ate too much.

But all in all, it was very successful.
A nice balance of family, friends, every meal imaginable,
parties, & even some dancing!

“SAY, by reason of your remembering Him Whom God shall make manifest and by extolling
His name, God will cause your hearts to be dilated with joy,
and do ye not wish your hearts to be in such a blissful state?” -The Báb

My wild rice stuffing recipe, which I made up in Israel and perfected back home:

1 cup wild rice medley
1/8 cup raisins
1/8 cup dried cranberries
1/8 cup diced dried apricots
a few tablespoons diced onions
1 teaspoon tumeric
2 tablespoons butter
salt & pepper

Cook rice in pot according to directions on package. In a pan, fry the butter, onions, tumeric, and dried fruit. When the rice is done, mix the fruit into the rice. Add salt & pepper to taste. SUPER easy!

What did you do for Thanksgiving?  Do you have any strange traditions?

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Delicious Dinner

I realized recently that my meals have been consisting of a lot of Thai take-out and Mexican food. While this is delicious, it is not always healthy and I missed cooking. Last night I picked out a few ingredients from my fridge and started cooking. I also created a recipe for gluten-free chocolate chip banana bread, which was delicious, but am still trying to remember what I put in it…

1 steak, thinly cut
1/4 chopped onion
1/2 bunch chopped mustard greens
1 sweet potato, cooked and diced
olive oil
1 Tbsp lemon juice
1/4 tsp chili powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1 clove garlic

Cook the steak as you normally would. I fried it on the stove in olive oil and spices on low heat, then took the steak out and used the same pan to cook the vegetables.

Fry the onions in olive oil, and the spices, then add the sweet potato and cook for 5 minutes. Add mustard greens, cook until they are soft and turn a darker green. Sprinkle lemon juice on top while they are cooking.

I had some feta cheese on the side. It took me maybe 20 minutes to make everything, including preparation.  I microwaved the sweet potato in its skin at the very beginning.  This dish could probably feed two people, especially if you have a large sweet potato.

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Beautiful music

“Raise ye a clamour like unto a roaring sea; like a prodigal cloud, rain down the grace of heaven. Lift up your voices and sing out the songs of the Abha Realm. Quench ye the fires of war, lift high the banners of peace, work for the oneness of humankind and remember that religion is the channel of love unto all peoples. Be ye aware that the children of men are sheep of God and He their loving Shepherd, that He careth tenderly for all His sheep and maketh them to feed in His own green pastures of grace and giveth them to drink from the wellspring of life. Such is the way of the Lord. Such are His bestowals. Such, from among His teachings, is His precept of the oneness of mankind.”

(Selections from the Writings of Abdu’l-Baha, p. 35)

“When eloquence of expression, beauty of sense and sweetness of composition unite with new melodies the effect is ever great, especially if it be the anthem of the verses of oneness and the songs of praise to the Lord of Glory.”

(Tablets of Abdu’l-Baha v1, p. 59)

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There it is.

There it is.  Moments that you can taste, hold in your hands and not let out of your sight.  We sigh in vain after the past, we hold our breath and count the stars.

Tonight my heart broke, mended, and went home as my friend’s voice soared in the rafters (thank you for that, Emily).  I remembered what it felt like to be surrounded by these people, these amazing, world-traveling, soul-embracing people.

We forget to be kind to ourselves, to each other.   We are moving in a million different directions, so many paths, and waiting for what we don’t even know exists.

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This time last year

Today is the First Day of Ridvan, and we celebrated by having some friends over for lunch.  Now I am having a quiet afternoon, enjoying the silence, reflecting, and trying to recover from a cold.

The Most Great Festival is, indeed, the King of Festivals. Call ye to mind, O people, the bounty which God hath conferred upon you. Ye were sunk in slumber, and lo! He aroused you by the reviving breezes of His Revelation, and made known unto you His manifest and undeviating Path.

(Baha’u’llah, The Kitab-i-Aqdas, p. 59)

This time last year…I was at Bahji for the celebration of the Holy Day.  We were 5 days away from the Tenth International Baha’i Convention, and I was surprisingly put together and relaxed.  It was spring, but felt a bit more like summer.  Everything is a blur…you know that you need to remember the details, but you don’t have time to write everything down.  The anticipation of waiting for the delegates to arrive, making sure last minute tasks were taken care of, phone calls and emails…

But on the Holy Day, everything stops for a moment.  There is silence, then the sound of chanting filling the gardens at Bahji, and the sunlight strong on my face and hair, the crunching of stones underfoot as over 500 people circumambulate the Shrine of Baha’u’llah, the joy of talking with friends and laughing as the sun begins to set.

…and then back to work.

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Naw Ruz

Today is the Baha’i new year, Naw Ruz.  It has been one hundred years since the remains of The Bab were laid to rest in the Shrine on Mount Carmel.  For one and a half years, I could see the Shrine from my apartment.  Such a blessing!

“…’Abdu’l-Bahá had the marble sarcophagus transported with great labor to the vault prepared for it, and in the evening, by the light of a single lamp, He laid within it, with His own hands — in the presence of believers from the East and from the West and in circumstances at once solemn and moving — the wooden casket containing the sacred remains of the Bab…”

‘The most joyful tidings is this,’ He wrote later in a Tablet announcing to His followers the news of this glorious victory, ‘that the holy, the luminous body of the Bab … after having for sixty years been transferred from place to place, by reason of the ascendancy of the enemy, and from fear of the malevolent, and having known neither rest nor tranquillity has, through the mercy of the Abha Beauty, been ceremoniously deposited, on the day of Naw-Ruz, within the sacred casket, in the exalted Shrine on Mt. Carmel… By a strange coincidence, on that same day of Naw-Ruz, a cablegram was received from Chicago, announcing that the believers in each of the American centers had elected a delegate and sent to that city … and definitely decided on the site and construction of the Mashriqu’l-Adhkar.'”

(Shoghi Effendi, God Passes By, p. 276)

I remember how often he [Shoghi Effendi] would tell the visiting pilgrims that because a simple candle was denied the beloved Bab during His imprisonment in Mah-Ku, His resting-place was to be eternally a temple of light. This was also true inside His tomb, where there is a magnificent chandelier, with almost a hundred electric bulbs that, when lighted, turn the sombre dim light of the inner chamber into the full glory of brilliant sunshine.

(Ugo Giachery, Shoghi Effendi – Recollections)

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One Day

One day was filled with the white clouds the size of universes as we walked up (down) the hills.  One day was seawater, digging toes in sand and smooth stones, not knowing how to speak to you.  One day was the infinite day of jasmine, roses, and smiles in sunlight.  One day was colder than any other, when she finally realized, on the eve of her birthday, that her eyes and smile were the most dangerous weapons she had.  The amount of power in that realization nearly brought her to her knees, scared her so badly that she sought refuge in being alone.

One day was solitude by a pond with the midsummer prairie breeze tangling her hair, bench slats pressed hard against her back as she cried to the squirrel who sat nearby, looking confused. [humans are so strange]

One day was actually five days worth of looking into eyes across café tables (lunch tables/empty living room spaces/only 2 feet between us), trying to read soul sentences that blurred and skipped [“no one should be allowed to play the record of me like you did”, she thought, half in anger, half in joy].

One day she was the sweet child she once was, and the next she was standing tall in a pair of shoes that made her body look much too wonderful, and she hid behind her clumsy silliness and sharp remarks, and smiled her deadly smile and looked around with her deadly eyes and brought life and love back to 1/3 of the inhabitants of the room (the rest of them refused to meet her gaze).

One day was photographs on blank walls, captured stories in still frames.

One day was a woman in yellow galoshes as she deliberately stepped into a giant puddle, ripples moving out and she smiled as the water flowed around her.

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Baha’i Fast Survival Kit


  • freeze-dried food and energy bars (for waking up too late to cook breakfast/emergency hunger at sunset)
  • an alarm with built-in sunrise and sunset times, which beeps as you get closer to the deadline
  • a clothespin for your nose (for while you cook or have to be around yummy smelling food)
  • a prayer book
  • extra-strength toothbrush, toothpaste, and mouthwash
  • sleeping mask for those daytime naps
  • energy drink (for the after-dinner food coma)
  • instructional manual with list of best foods to eat during the Fast, how to explain to your friends that Fasting is medically healthy for most people, and activities one can engage in besides eating (sudoku, knitting, origami, cross-stitching, organizing paperclips, etc)

Only $19.95!

This little idea came out of a conversation I had with a friend about cooking dinner during the Fast.  It is the last few hours which are the hardest, as you prepare food and anticipate the moment that you will eat and drink again.  I tend to get more creative during this time…I want to eat really good food!  In the last few days I have made: homemade spaghetti (none of that canned stuff), burgers, mashed potatoes, pineapple meatballs, scalloped potatoes, Persian rice, and a few other random things that I can’t remember.

The Fast is a spiritual time, but you DO have to keep a sense of humor about it. 🙂  I was going to put a picture of food to illustrate this post, but decided to be kind.  Also, it is time for my nap.

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The first day of Ayyam-i-Ha…

(my last visit to Bahji at the end of my service)

From amongst all mankind hath He chosen you, and your eyes have been opened to the light of guidance and your ears attuned to the music of the Company above; and blessed by abounding grace, your hearts and souls have been born into new life. Thank ye and praise ye God that the hand of infinite bestowals hath set upon your heads this gem-studded crown, this crown whose lustrous jewels will forever flash and sparkle down all the reaches of time.

…Raise ye a clamour like unto a roaring sea; like a prodigal cloud, rain down the grace of heaven. Lift up your voices and sing out the songs of the Abha Realm. Quench ye the fires of war, lift high the banners of peace, work for the oneness of humankind and remember that religion is the channel of love unto all peoples. Be ye aware that the children of men are sheep of God and He their loving Shepherd, that He careth tenderly for all His sheep and maketh them to feed in His own green pastures of grace and giveth them to drink from the wellspring of life. Such is the way of the Lord. Such are His bestowals. Such, from among His teachings, is His precept of the oneness of mankind.

(Abdu’l-Baha, Selections from the Writings of Abdu’l-Baha, p. 34)

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An unjust trial in Iran

This article on the Baha’i World News Service site is about the newest development with the long-suffering Baha’i community in Iran: reports have emerged that “…seven imprisoned Baha’is have been accused of espionage and other crimes and that their case will be referred to the Revolutionary Court…” These individuals, and other Baha’is who have been harassed, arrested, and jailed, have done nothing to merit such accusations.  They are being persecuted for their religious beliefs, as simple as that.  It might be hard to believe, especially if you have lived your entire life in a society that protects the freedom of religion, speech, and a myriad other human rights.  But this is a very real, and very dangerous, problem for the Baha’is in Iran.  Baha’is do not involve themselves in politics, as Ms. Ala’i, the Baha’i International Community representative to the United Nations in Geneva, points out:

“If the Baha’is are accused of spying for Israel, then why do they not hide their identity? Why were hundreds previously executed for refusing to recant their faith and embrace Islam? Why have thousands been deprived of their jobs, pensions, businesses and educational opportunities? Why have holy places, shrines and cemeteries been confiscated and demolished? All of this demonstrates a concerted attempt to destroy a religious community,” Ms. Ala’i said.

These recent developments have filled me with sadness, but I know that one of the things I can do is offer a prayer for these wonderful souls who are going through such suffering.  Regardless of whether you are a Baha’i or not, it would be greatly appreciated if you would consider saying a prayer for them.

Faded now is all that erstwhile flourished in the Paradise of Thy transcendent oneness, O my God! Where are the rain-giving clouds of Thy mercy? Shorn are the branches of the Tree of Thy unity of the vesture of Thy majesty and wisdom; where is the spring-time of Thy gifts and bounties? Motionless lies the Ark of Thy Cause on the sea of Thy creation; where are the winds of Thy grace and favors? Encompassed on every side is Thy Lamp by the tempests of discord blowing from every land; where is the globe of Thy graciousness and protection?

Thou seest, O my God, how the eyes of these poor creatures are bent upon the horizon of Thy riches, how the hearts of these helpless ones are set in the direction of Thy might. I beseech Thee, O Thou Who art the sole Desire of them that have recognized Thee, and the Object of the adoration of the entire creation, not to suffer them, now that Thou hast  attracted them by Thy most exalted Word, to be far removed from the Tabernacle which Thou hast reared up by Thy name, the All-Glorious.

They are sore pressed with cares, O my Lord, and are encompassed about by the wicked. Send down, therefore, from the heaven of Thy behest Thine invisible hosts, that, holding aloft the ensigns of Thy victory, they may help them in Thy land, and may shield them against Thine adversaries.

I entreat Thee, O my God, by Thy name through which the clouds have rained down their rain, and the streams have flowed, and the fire of Thy love hath been kindled throughout Thy dominion, to assist Thy servant who hath turned towards Thee, and hath spoken forth Thy praise, and determined to help Thee. Fortify, then, his heart, O my God, in Thy love and in Thy Faith. Better is this for him than all that hath been created on Thine earth, for the world and whatsoever is therein must perish, and what pertaineth unto Thee must endure as long as Thy most excellent names endure. By Thy Glory! Were the world to last as long as Thine own kingdom will last, to set their affections upon it would still be unseemly for such as have quaffed, from the hands of Thy mercy, the wine of Thy presence; how much more when they recognize its fleetingness and are persuaded of its transience. The chances that overtake it, and the changes to which all things pertaining unto it are continually subjected, attest its impermanence.

Whosoever hath recognized Thee will turn to none save Thee, and will seek from Thee naught else except Thyself. Thou art the sole Desire of the heart of him whose thoughts are fixed on Thee, and the highest Aspiration of whosoever is wholly devoted unto Thee.

No God is there beside Thee, the Almighty, the Help in Peril, the All-Glorious, the Most Powerful.


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Things to read, listen to, and look at.

The illustrious Sarah Lonning has a presence on the web. Be impressed.

Navid shares music, often with commentary. Brilliant. I’ve been enjoying it very much.

That odd fellow known as David Precht launched his site a while ago, and it is as lovely and strange as he is.

Genius Dog is now The Doghouse Diaries, so adjust your links. And they’re doing a fantastic job. Keep it up, guys.

There is a carousel at the mall that reminds me of this gorgeous photo by Shahriar. As the children go around, their faces light up and they live completely in that moment. I love that.

Lauren uploaded these photos from her trip to Nepal a while back but I forgot to blog about how much I loved them.

The streets of Chicago are still snow-covered, and we are trying to stay warm. Do me a favor…if you live in a warm climate, please go outside for a moment and enjoy it for me. 🙂 It is horrible to admit that I am getting acclimated…yesterday I traipsed around in the snow in our yard for a while, just because I had snow boots on and I could. And last weekend I went sledding with my sister. I had some bruises and aches afterward, but it was totally worth it.

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More arrests in Iran

After my last post yesterday regarding the situation of the members of the Baha’i Faith in Iran, six more Baha’is were arrested yesterday. One of them is a former employee of Nobel prize winner Shirin Ebadi, who is a defender of human rights. It is interesting that CNN picked up the story about the employee being arrested, but did not mention that she is a member of the Baha’i Faith. The New York Times mentions that confidential client records were taken and that the reason given was possible tax evasion.

This statement by the Baha’i International Community points out that “…any individuals or groups who speak out on behalf of the Bahá’ís inevitably find themselves subjected to public vilification or other forms of intimidation.”

Tonight our family watched the airing of Rick Steve’s travels in Iran on PBS. It was interesting to see Iran from a Western perspective, although sometimes humorously painful to watch, as he very earnestly attempts to understand Persian culture. The Baha’i Faith was mentioned very briefly, in the context of religious freedom, but very little was said. Most of the show was devoted to showing the positive aspects of modern-day Iran.

In addition to your prayers for those suffering injustice, maybe you can think about doing an act of service or kindness in their name in the coming days and weeks. Those of us who live in countries who have more freedom are reminded of the blessings and responsibilities that come with that freedom.

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The Baha’is in Iran

It has been 9 months since leaders of the Baha’i Faith in Iran were arrested on 14 May 2008. They are still in prison, along with other Baha’is who have been arrested merely because of their beliefs.

From a Baha’i World News Service story: “We deny in the strongest possible terms the suggestion that Baha’is in Iran have engaged in any subversive activity,” said Bani Dugal, principal representative of the Baha’i International Community to the United Nations. “The Baha’i community is not involved in political affairs. Their only ‘crime’ is the practice of their religion.”

“The seriousness of the allegations makes us fear for the lives of these seven individuals,” she said.

The Baha’is in Iran, in addition to being imprisoned, are also harassed, denied the right to education, dismissed from jobs or refused hire, cemeteries destroyed…the list goes on. They are not the only minority in Iran to suffer, but are certainly targeted heavily.

Although I am half Persian, I was born in the USA and have never been able to visit Iran. I would love to go there someday, but the situation is not to be taken lightly, especially being a Baha’i. It is sad to me, because my entire life I have been exposed to aspects of the culture, heard stories, and seen pictures of Iran. It is a strange feeling having such a strong connection to a place that I have never been. As a Baha’i, I know that the entire world is my home, and every country and person united (even thought it is sometimes difficult to see with the situation of the world being what it is).

Perhaps today you can say a prayer for them, and for the sufferers of injustice anywhere in the world.

He is the Compassionate, the All-Bountiful! O God, my God! Thou seest me, Thou knowest me; Thou art my Haven and my Refuge.  None have I sought nor any will I seek save Thee; no path have I trodden nor any will I tread but the path of Thy love. In the darksome night of despair, my eye turneth expectant and full of hope to the morn of Thy boundless favor and at the hour of dawn my drooping soul is refreshed and strengthened in remembrance of Thy beauty and perfection. He whom the grace of Thy mercy aideth, though he be but a drop, shall become the boundless ocean, and the merest atom which the outpouring of Thy loving-kindness assisteth, shall shine even as the radiant star.

Shelter under Thy protection, O Thou Spirit of purity, Thou Whom art the All-Bountiful Provider, this enthralled, enkindled servant of Thine. Aid him in this world of being to remain steadfast and firm in Thy love and grant that this broken-winged bird attain a refuge and shelter in Thy divine nest that abideth upon the celestial tree.

– ‘Abdu’l-Bahá

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The Station of Christ

As a Baha’i, I do not celebrate Christmas as Christians do, but as I live in a country that celebrates Christian holidays, I have been surrounded by Christmas…and instead of the usual materialistic images that are evoked by the holiday, I wish to instead focus on who Jesus Christ was: a Manifestation of God. Baha’is believe that Baha’u’llah was the return of Christ in the glory of the Father, and that all Manifestations came from God at different times to teach humanity about what God wants us to do.

The position of Christ was that of absolute perfection; He made His divine perfections shine like the sun upon all believing souls, and the bounties of the light shone and radiated in the reality of men. This is why He says: “I am the bread which descended from heaven; whosoever shall eat of this bread will not die”- that is to say, that whosoever shall partake of this divine food will attain unto eternal life: that is, every one who partakes of this bounty and receives these perfections will find eternal life, will obtain preexistent favors, will be freed from the darkness of error, and will be illuminated by the light of His guidance.

(Abdu’l-Baha, Some Answered Questions, p. 120)

When the sanctified breezes of Christ and the holy light of the Greatest Luminary [1] were spread abroad, the human realities — that is to say, those who turned toward the Word of God and received the profusion of His bounties — were saved from this attachment and sin, obtained everlasting life, were delivered from the chains of bondage, and attained to the world of liberty. They were freed from the vices of the human world, and were blessed by the virtues of the Kingdom. This is the meaning of the words of Christ, “I gave My blood for the life of the world”[2] — that is to say, I have chosen all these troubles, these sufferings, calamities, and even the greatest martyrdom, to attain this object, the remission of sins (that is, the detachment of spirits from the human world, and their attraction to the divine world) in order that souls may arise who will be the very essence of the guidance of mankind, and the manifestations of the perfections of the Supreme Kingdom.
[1 Bahá’u’lláh.]
[2 Cf. John 6:51.]

(Abdu’l-Baha, Some Answered Questions, p. 124)

The Cause of Bahá’u’lláh is the same as the Cause of Christ. It is the same Temple and the same Foundation. Both of these are spiritual springtimes and seasons of the soul-refreshing awakening and the cause of the renovation of the life of mankind. The spring of this year is the same as the spring of last year. The origins and ends are the same. The sun of today is the sun of yesterday. In the coming of Christ, the divine teachings were given in accordance with the infancy of the human race. The teachings of Bahá’u’lláh have the same basic principles, but are according to the stage of the maturity of the world and the requirements of this illumined age.

(Abdu’l-Baha, Baha’i World Faith, p. 400)

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