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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One of those days

Today was one of those days.  I was woken by a call from a dear friend who I haven’t spoken to in years.  She and I laughed and talked and agreed to meet this week for lunch.   While we talked I made rice, pot roast, and coffee.

Mom came home and insisted on going for a walk, since it was 61 degrees F outside (16 degrees C).  For February in Chicago, this is unheard of.  So of course we enjoyed the sunlight and I felt my spirits pick up.  Winter really does number on me.

I hung paintings around the house this afternoon, which is a bit of an ongoing project for me for several reasons.  First, we have lots of wall space.  Second, we have a lot of paintings, as my paternal grandparents were artists.  Finally, I tend to have a short attention span when it comes to decorating.  Sometimes I rotate paintings in the house for fun.  There is something satisfying about hammering nails into the framing boards of the paintings.

I spent the rest of the evening in the library, which is pretty much like heaven for me.  I think that the only thing that would make it better would be to attach an ice cream shop, and perhaps add a swimming pool…haha, well, in any case, I was very productive and that made me happy.

Finally, I want to share with you this quotation:

If a small number of people gather lovingly together, with absolute purity and sanctity, with their hearts free of the world, experiencing the emotions of the Kingdom and the powerful magnetic forces of the Divine, and being at one in their happy fellowship, that gathering will exert its influence over all the earth. The nature of that band of people, the words they speak, the deeds they do, will unleash the bestowals of Heaven, and provide a foretaste of eternal bliss. The hosts of the Company on high will defend them, and the angels of the Abha Paradise, in continuous succession, will come down to their aid.


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Baha’i inspired music

Lately I’ve been seeing more music by artists who are Baha’is, and thought I’d share some with you.  Everyone has different taste in music, of course.   I know a lot of musicians, so I’m only going to highlight a few here.  Perhaps at one point I’ll get around to linking to everyone.

The Hidden Words – Nathan & Nabil Huening (songs available for download!) Great for devotionals.  The songs are based on The Hidden Words, which is a book of Writings by Baha’u’llah.

“This is that which hath descended from the realm of glory, uttered by the tongue of power and might, and revealed unto the Prophets of old. We have taken the inner essence thereof and clothed it in the garment of brevity, as a token of grace unto the righteous, that they may stand faithful unto the Covenant of God, may fulfill in their lives His trust, and in the realm of spirit obtain the gem of Divine virtue.”   (Baha’u’llah, The Arabic Hidden Words)

Ellis&Knight – Vahid Ellis and Hayden Knight

“Ellis&Knight was formed in August of 2007, under the scorching Brazilian sun. Through travel and the Baha’i Faith, Vahid Ellis and Hayden Knight ended up as roommates in the Brazilian capital, and quickly realized that music was an inspiration they shared…Our first album entitled “Groundwork” will be out soon, and we hope that it will inspire people and offer something new to the world of music: a fusion of hip-hop, acoustic guitar, melodic vocals and thoughtful lyrics that blend and bring together diverse elements and styles.”

Everlasting Fire – Alessandro. You can download his album through Amazon or the iTunes store, and listen to a few full-length songs on Myspace.

“His love for music and the performing arts, his love for people of all races, creed and culture, his firm conviction that artists are essentially story tellers, whose tales should uplift the heart and call to the higher, noble nature of the human being, his vision for the future of this beautiful planet, – all these permeate this first recorded suite of Alessandro’s songs. They are offered with the hope that they may point the way to that quest for beauty that is at the heart of all human endeavor.”

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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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After and the beginning

The Chicago Regional Baha’i Conference. (Read this first!!)

I am so overwhelmed with the beauty and love of these conferences. I have been struggling to write this blog entry for several days now, wondering how I would put into words the experience. Then I decided to just capture the moments. The moments I experienced might be similar to other people’s experiences, or completely different. A number of friends from around the world have been asking for anecdotes from the Chicago conference, so I thought it best to just write it here.

-Registration on Friday night…watching my fellow volunteers prepare for the arrival of the attendees, and then greeting each person, checking off their names. Having lived in the Midwestern region for 17 years, I recognized so many people and names. Everyone was so happy to see each other, and sometimes there were reunions of 15 years gone by right in front of my table.

-Saturday morning, helping with a few things here and there, and then sitting in the main hall for the start of the conference. Facilitating workshops with large groups of people during the course of the weekend…and they were all so excited, so eager to contribute, and the entire ballroom was full of people like this. The entire conference was full of people that did not want to miss sessions. People would go outside the rooms, grab a cup of coffee, and run back inside, explaining that “I’m so happy to see you, but I can’t miss this!” They were offering their skills, their prayers, their homes, their lives for service, and it nearly makes me cry now just thinking about it.

-Rushed meals in meetings, laughter, explanations, and sharing the learning.

-I saw a hundred people I dearly missed, and missed seeing even more because there were 2,300 people there. I heard that friends of mine were there, but I just did not ever see them. Reuniting with friends was a nice bonus if it happened, but everyone seemed to agree that it wasn’t really the point. The conferences were called by the Universal House of Justice for a specific reason, and everyone seemed to be on the same page. It was especially wonderful to see friends that I had served with in Haifa.

-Driving to and from the convention center in horrible weather conditions. Chicago blessed us with all of her wintery wrath, and it was 4 degrees F (-15 C), with a minor blizzard on Saturday morning that made the drive twice as long. Having not driven in snow for nearly 2 years (since I was serving in Haifa, and it definitely didn’t snow there!) made me very nervous.

-Laughter. My face hurt from how happy I was.

-Watching a man sign his Baha’i declaration card and become a Baha’i, right in front of my eyes, on Sunday afternoon. I had never met him, but it was powerful.

-Knowing that I was taking part in something historic…I can’t even count how many times I got the shivers, knowing that this was unprecedented and that I will tell my children about it.

I can’t wait to hear about the rest of the conferences.

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41 Conferences

“The Universal House of Justice, in a letter dated 20 October 2008, announced the convocation of a series of 41 regional conferences over a four-month period. The letter – which marked the midway point of a five-year effort to expand activities at the grassroots level – indicated that the purpose of the conferences is to celebrate achievements during the first half of the Five Year Plan and to deliberate on the next phase.”Regional Conferences of the Five Year Plan

I highly recommend going to the website linked above and reading the stories there about each of the conferences. Regardless of whether you are a Baha’i or you don’t believe in God, it is truly inspiring to see people from around the world gathering on such short notice to have these remarkable gatherings.

Chicago’s turn is this weekend, and I will be at the conference center starting tomorrow, Friday, through Sunday…which also means I will not be checking my email very much. I am not staying at the hotel, since I live nearby. I am very excited.

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The Day of the Covenant

“The Day of the Covenant Nov. 26th, and the Day of the Ascension, Nov. 28th, anniversaries of the birth and the Ascension of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá must be observed by the friends coming together, but work is not prohibited. In other words the friends must regard observance of these two anniversaries as obligatory – but suspension of work not to be regarded as obligatory.”

(From a letter written on behalf of the Guardian to the National Spiritual Assembly of Australia and New Zealand, January 21, 1951)

“…regarding the declaration of the Báb and the birthday of the Master; the Báb declared His Mission on the fourth day of the month of Jamadi I, two hours and eleven minutes after sunset, corresponding with the evening of May 22nd. But as the Bahá’í day begins after sunset, and not after midnight as in the West, the Báb’s declaration is celebrated on the fifth day of Jamadi I, corresponding to the 23rd of May. “Abdu’l-Bahá was born in the course of that same night, but the exact hour of His birth has not been ascertained.”

(From a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to the National Spiritual Assembly of the United States and Canada November 25, 1936)

‘Abdu’l-Bahá told the Bahá’ís that this day was not, under any circumstances, to be celebrated as His day of birth. It was the day of the Declaration of the Báb, exclusively associated with Him. But as the Bahá’ís begged for a day to be celebrated as His, He gave them November 26th, to be observed as the day of the appointment of the Centre of the Covenant. It was known as Jashn-i-A’zam (The Greatest Festival), because He was Ghusn-i-A’zam – the Greatest Branch. In the West it is known as the Day of the Covenant.

(H.M. Balyuzi, Abdu’l-Baha – The Centre of the Covenant, p. 522)

The vehicle in this resplendent Age for the practical fulfilment of these duties is the Covenant of Bahá’u’lláh; it is, indeed, the potent instrument by which individual belief in Him is translated into constructive deeds. The Covenant comprises divinely conceived arrangements necessary to preserve the organic unity of the Cause. It therefore engenders a motivating power which, as the beloved Master tells us, “like unto the artery, beats and pulsates in the body of the world”. “It is indubitably clear”, He asserts, “that the pivot of the oneness of mankind is nothing else but the power of the Covenant.” Through it the meaning of the Word, both in theory and practice, is made evident in the life and work of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, the appointed Interpreter, the perfect Exemplar, the Centre of the Covenant. Through it the processes of the Administrative Order — “this unique, this wondrous System” — are made to operate.

(The Universal House of Justice, 1988 Dec 29, Individual Rights and Freedoms, p. 2)

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Some thoughts on tests in the community

I’ve noticed some comments over the years from various people on their tests as Bahá’ís…that sometimes they feel like they are too different than other members of the community, that they are frustrated with fellow believers, that they believe in the Bahá’í Faith but disagree with elements of the administration. These, and many other reasons, create a distance between them and the community.

“Perhaps the greatest test Bahá’ís are ever subjected to is from each other; but for the sake of the Master they should be ever ready to overlook each other’s mistakes, apologize for harsh words they have uttered, forgive and forget. He strongly recommends to you this course of action.”

(From a letter written on behalf of the Guardian to an individual believer, February 18, 1945; Living the Life, p. 12)

The Bahá’í Faith is in a process of learning and growing. As we grow, there are individual and community struggles. This is part of the process.

“Thus you might look upon your own difficulties in the path of service. they are the means of your spirit growing and developing. You will suddenly find that you have conquered many of the problems which upset you, and then you will wonder why the should have troubled you at all. An individual must centre his whole heart and mind on service to the Cause, in accordance with the high standards set by Bahá’u’lláh. When this is done, the Hosts of Supreme Concourse will come to the assistance of the individual, and every difficulty and trial will gradually be overcome.”

(Written by the Guardian’s Secretary on his behalf to an individual believer, October 6, 1954: Living the Life, p. 19)

“He was very sorry to hear that you have had so many tests in your Bahá’í life. There is no doubt that many of them are due to our own nature. In other words, if we are very sensitive, or if we are in some way brought up in a different environment from the Bahá’ís amongst whom we live, we naturally see things differently and may feel them more acutely; and the other side of it is that the imperfections of our fellow-Bahá’ís can be a great trial to us”.

“We must always remember that in the cesspool of materialism, which is what modern civilization has to a certain extent become, Bahá’ís — that is some of them — are still to a certain extent affected by the society from which they have sprung. In other words, they have recognized the Manifestation of God, but they have not been believers long enough, or perhaps not tried hard enough, to become ‘a new Creation’. He feels that, if you close your eyes to the failings of others, and fix your love and prayers upon Bahá’u’lláh, you will have the strength to weather this storm, and will be much better for it in the end, spiritually. Although you suffer, you will gain a maturity that will enable you to be of greater help to both your fellow-Bahá’ís and your children”

(From a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to an individual believer, April 5, 1956)

No matter how difficult the circumstances, we should not separate ourselves from the community as a whole. The Bahá’í community is an inseparable part of being a Bahá’í.

“For the Bahá’í Faith is above all a way of life. It is not a mere philosophical or social doctrine. It is a closely-knit and harmoniously functioning community, a world-wide spiritual fraternity which seeks to reform the world first and foremost by bringing about a deep inner spiritual change in the heart of individuals. To live the teachings of the Cause should be the paramount concern of every true believer, and the only way to do so is to commune both in spirit and through actual concrete means with the entire community of the faithful. The Bahá’í Cause encourages community life and makes it a duty for every one of its followers to become a living, a fully active and responsible member of the world-wide Bahá’í fellowship.”

(From letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to an individual believer, August 13, 1936)

“Regarding the matter … and the inharmony that seems to exist among certain of the friends … When Bahá’ís permit the dark forces of the world to enter into their own relationships within the Faith they gravely jeopardize its progress; it is the paramount duty of the believers, the Local Assemblies, and particularly the N.S.A. to foster harmony, understanding and love amongst the friends. All should be ready and willing to set aside every personal sense of grievance — justified or unjustified — for the good of the Cause, because the people will never embrace it until they see in its Community life mirrored what is so conspicuously lacking in the world; love and unity.”

(From a letter written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice to the National Spiritual Assembly of Bolivia, August 19, 1985)

Obviously there are individual circumstances. The reason I wrote this post was to be encouraging to those who are having a difficult time, not to berate those who are not able to be more active members of community life. None of us are perfect, all of us are striving. The beauty of this is that we can learn from each other.

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Blueprint for a New World

Last year I posted a little blurb about how my father, Craig Loehle, wrote a new book. I decided to promote it a little bit more, because I think a lot of people still haven’t heard about it.

Description from the web site:
Using the Power of the Revelation of Bahá’u’lláh to Revitalize the Individual and Society.

What does it mean to build the ‘Kingdom of God on earth’? Why a building process and not a miraculous process, a snap of God’s fingers? Is there a model for the future society? And if so, is it something we would want?

Craig Loehle suggests that a new world view is needed for society to take the next steps of social and material progress. Such a world view, he proposes, can only be provided by a new revelation of guidance from God. He thus explores the teachings of Bahá’u’lláh, founder of the Bahá’í Faith, as this new divine revelation and examines the role Bahá’ís play as inventors in the development of the new social and economic systems that will form the pattern for a peaceful, united and just future society.

You can buy it at the George Ronald Publisher web site, or at the Baha’i Distribution Service site. Pass the word on to your friends, buy the book!

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a few thoughts

– There needs to be a good balance between spending time with people and being alone. Too much of either and it is possible to go a little bit crazy.

– Walking through ivy league campuses makes me feel smarter. Also, it makes me miss school…even though I couldn’t wait to be done with school when I was in it!

– The colors of the leaves changing is one of my favorite things about autumn…that, and the clothes. The imminent onset of winter, however, is something I dread.

– Connecting with family members around the world…the last few months have been amazing, as I meet cousins, share stories, and hear anecdotes from relatives about the history of the Persian side of our family.

– I’ve been listening to some great music recently. Bell X1, Stars, Gotye, and my forever favorite, Zero 7.

– The election is finally over, and gosh am I happy. Not that I have much hope that most mainstream media will find something worth obsessing over, but I try to be optimistic. Of course, it is a historic thing and all that, but everyone else has said enough about that already, no need for me to expound on the subject. I’ve made my opinions on partisan politics quite clear.

I love my family and friends. A lot a lot. Especially those who keep me company when I feel lonely, and make me laugh (you know who you are). A quote from the Baha’i Writings:

“O friends, consort with all the people of the world with joy and fragrance. If there be to you a word or essence whereof others than you are devoid, communicate it and show it forth in the language of affection and kindness: if it be received and be effective the object is attained, and if not leave it to him, and with regard to him deal not harshly but pray. The language of kindness is the lodestone of hearts and the food of the soul; it stands in the relation of ideas to words, and is as an horizon for the shining of the Sun of Wisdom and Knowledge.”


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Rumor and Gossip

“Why this great unrest — wars and the rumors of wars, changing of dynasties, earthquakes, cataclysms? The people cry “Peace, peace; when there is no peace!” Are not these the outer sign that man has lost the inner truth?” -Abdu’l-Baha

I found this article from the American Psychological Association about research regarding rumors and gossip. I found it interesting that the authors differentiated between rumors and gossip:

“Rumors have been described as public communications that are infused with private hypotheses about how the world works (Rosnow, 1991), or more specifically, ways of making sense to help us cope with our anxieties and uncertainties (Rosnow, 1988, 2001). On the other hand, as Wert and Salovey (2004b) noted, “almost as many functions of gossip have been argued as writers to write about gossip” (p. 77). More than rumor, gossip tends to have an “inner-circleness” about it, in that it is customarily passed between people who have a common history or shared interests.” -Foster & Rosnow

So the idea is basically that rumors have served some kind of social purpose as the human race has evolved, as a way to pass on information when the written word was not utilized, and for people to establish social hierarchies. The Baha’i Writings tell us the following about the negative effects of gossip:

“If any soul speak ill of an absent one, the only result will clearly be this: he will dampen the zeal of the friends and tend to make them indifferent. For backbiting is divisive, it is the leading cause among the friends of a disposition to withdraw. If any individual should speak ill of one who is absent, it is incumbent on his hearers, in a spiritual and friendly manner, to stop him, and say in effect: would this detraction serve any useful purpose?” -Abdu’l-Baha

I am interested in seeing the results of the next chapter, which discusses the effects of gossip on social networks and the links within them:

“We found that denser networks are less vulnerable to social fragmentation from gossip. However, this effect is moderated by “gatekeepers” who tend to position themselves along unique social bridges between other network members. Disintermediating, that is, increasing the density of social connections around gatekeepers, is expected to decrease negative effects of gossiping and to assist in improving norm coherence.” -Foster & Rosnow

Any thoughts?

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The purpose of religion

O ye that dwell on earth! The religion of God is for love and unity; make it not the cause of enmity or dissension. In the eyes of men of insight and the beholders of the Most Sublime Vision, whatsoever are the effective means for safeguarding and promoting the happiness and welfare of the children of men have already been revealed by the Pen of Glory. But the foolish ones of the earth, being nurtured in evil passions and desires, have remained heedless of the consummate wisdom of Him Who is, in truth, the All-Wise, while their words and deeds are prompted by idle fancies and vain imaginings.

-Baha’u’llah, Kitab-i-Ahd (Book of the Covenant)

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The Baha’i Faith: Poverty and the Law of Huququ’llah

(This post is not meant to educate on the Law of Huququ’llah, but instead is meant to create interest in the subject. To read more, go here.)

For Blog Action Day, we are asked to write about poverty.  I decided that I wanted to write about this beautiful part of the Baha’i Faith called Huququ’llah (Right of God).  I have found a few quotations from the Baha’i writings on the subject.  If you have additional input, please comment…I am by no means an expert on the subject.

“Know ye that the poor are the trust of God in your midst. Watch that ye betray not His trust, that ye deal not unjustly with them and that ye walk not in the ways of the treacherous. Ye will most certainly be called upon to answer for His trust on the day when the Balance of Justice shall be set, the day when unto every one shall be rendered his due, when the doings of all men, be they rich or poor, shall be weighed.”

(Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah, p. 251)

In the Baha’i writings we are told of our duty towards the poor, of the importance of ensuring that they are taken care of.  We know that thousands die every day from hunger, even though there is enough food in the world to feed them.

“lt is incumbent upon everyone to discharge the obligation of Huquq. The advantages gained from this deed revert to the persons themselves. However, the acceptance of the offerings dependeth on the spirit of joy, fellowship and contentment that the righteous souls who fulfil this injunction will manifest. If such is the attitude acceptance is permissible, and not otherwise. Verily thy Lord is the All-Sufficing, the All-Praised…

…Should a person acquire one hundred mithqals of gold, nineteen mithqals thereof belong unto God, the Creator of earth and heaven. Take heed, O people, lest ye deprive yourselves of this great bounty. We have prescribed this law unto you while We are wholly independent of you and of all that are in the heavens and on the earth. Indeed there lie concealed in this command, mysteries and benefits which are beyond the comprehension of anyone save God, the All- Knowing, the All-Informed.”

(Baha’u’llah, Compilations, Huququ’llah)

Here we are given the guidelines for the giving of this money.  It has been clarified at a deeper level, but this is sufficient for our purposes.  We are told that we should not give unless we are happy to do so, and that we are rewarded for such an act.  Note that giving to the Fund is different than paying Huququ’llah.  Baha’u’llah also points out that He prescribed this law even when He did not need any money.  Adib Taherzadeh points out, in The Child of the Covenant:

“It must be made clear that under Bahá’u’lláh’s supervision the funds were spent for the promotion of the Cause and very little, if any, for His own expenses or those of His companions.”

So what is the purpose of Huququ’llah?

“Know thou, moreover, that those who faithfully serve the All-Merciful will be enriched by Him out of His heavenly treasury and that the Huquq offering is but a test applied by Him unto His servants and maidservants. Thus every true and sincere believer will offer Huquq to be expended for the relief of the poor, the disabled, the needy, and the orphans, and for other vital needs of the Cause of God, even as Christ did establish a Fund for benevolent purposes….

…One of the tokens of His consummate wisdom is that the payment of the Huquq will enable the donors to become firm and steadfast and will exert a great influence on their hearts and souls. Furthermore the Huquq will be used for charitable purposes.”

(Abdu’l-Baha, Compilations, Huququ’llah)

So the distribution of funds goes through a central channel, the Universal House of Justice, which, as the Baha’u’llah assures us, is divinely guided:

“It is incumbent upon the Trustees of the House of Justice to take counsel together regarding those things which have not outwardly been revealed in the Book, and to enforce that which is agreeable to them. God will verily inspire them with whatsoever He willeth, and He, verily, is the Provider, the Omniscient.”

(Baha’u’llah, Tablets of Baha’u’llah, p. 68)

The Universal House of Justice then distributes the funds where they are needed…and there are a whole range of ways in which this happens.

“In brief, payment of Huququ’lláh is one of the binding spiritual responsibilities of the followers of Bahá’u’lláh and the proceeds thereof revert to the Authority in the Cause to whom all must turn. Moreover, the Ancient Beauty — magnified be His praise — has affirmed that after the establishment of the Universal House of Justice necessary rulings would be enacted in this connection in conformity with that which God has purposed, and that no one, except the Authority to which all must turn, has the right to dispose of this Fund. In other words, whatever portion of one’s wealth is due to the Huququ’lláh belongs to the World Centre of the Cause of God, not to the individuals concerned.’

(From a letter of the Universal House of Justice to the National Spiritual Assembly of Iran, October 25, 1970)

Okay so you might ask…what does this have to do with poverty?  People are starving!  Well, here is my humble opinion (and please do your own research, my words mean nothing).  There are charity groups, organizations that are completely devoted to the eradication of hunger and poverty…and yet, the human race keeps coming up against this wall when it trys to take care of its own kind.  Change does not happen through the passing of resolutions or trade embargoes.  It does not happen when a country is threatened with war or cajoled with the promise of peace.  Change happens when hearts are changed, when the heart accepts the Word of God and acts on it.  It does not happen overnight.  There is no magical cure, and the road ahead is going to be difficult.

We will not take care of our fellow human beings until we recognize God in them, until we deal with racism, prejudice, and all of those ills that afflict mankind.  Being able to detach from our possessions in a spirit of joy in order to help those less fortunate is a pretty good start.

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Check out this photoblog!

My friend Ronnie recently asked me to join a project that he started with Baha’i friends from several different countries. There are 6 of us, from London, Los Angeles, New York, Paris, Singapore, and Chicago (me).

Every week we each post a picture that corresponds to a theme. This week’s theme was “Urban Jungle”. I am in awe at the talent and different perspectives that come from these individuals. It has been really great to have a project to work on while I’m looking for a job…being a part of something, you know?

Check it out, and spread the word.

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Some things to read

I’ve had time to read a few books. I think that it has been nine months since I last wrote about my reading list, so it has had time to pile up a bit. In addition to the books listed here, I’ve read a number of fictional books, but there are too many to list. 🙂

Billions of Entrepreneurs: How China and India Are Reshaping Their Futures-and Yours, by Tarun Khanna
-Less about entrepreneurship, more about comparing, contrasting, explaining the cultures, politics, business strategies, and infrastructures of China and India, using case studies and personal experience.

What Mad Pursuit: A Personal View of Scientific Discovery, by Francis Crick
-More of a commentary on the scientific process, it can be a slow read but it is a small book.

I Capture the Castle, by Dodie Smith
-Written in 1948, I immediately thought that this book could have been set in the modern day. I loved the style of writing, which was descriptive. Written as the personal journal of a 17 year old girl, it was made into a movie (which I have not seen).

The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair That Changed America, by Erik Larson
-If you love Chicago, this is a book you will want to read. It is the story of the creation of the 1893 World’s Fair, as well as a serial killer who lived in Chicago at the same time as the Fair.

The History of Love, by Nicole Krauss
-Beautiful, poetic writing, with a great plot twist at the end.

The Kite Runner, by Khaled Hosseini
-A heartbreaking work of fiction about betrayal and forgiveness.

Gluten-free Girl: How I Found the Food That Loves Me Back…and How You Can Too, by Shauna James Ahern
-This book actually made me want to cook more. I got into Shauna’s writing by reading her blog, and her descriptions of food are amazing. Even if you can eat food with gluten in it, this is a valuable book to read in order to understand how people with gluten intolerance have to deal with food in American society.

Eat, Pray, Love One: Woman’s Search for Everything Across Italy, India and Indonesia, by Elizabeth Gilbert
-Kind of an interesting story, but the author is self-absorbed. I know that this book was a best-seller, but I’ve never been the “find yourself” type, and so books like this generally annoy me.

Baha’i books:

Gate of the Heart: Understanding the Writings of the Báb, by Nader Saiedi (still reading)
(from Baha’i Bookstore) “Taking an interdisciplinary approach, the author examines the Báb’s major works in multifaceted context, explaining the unique theological system, mystical worldview, and interpretive principles they embody as well as the rhetorical and symbolic uses of language through which the Báb radically transforms traditional concepts and at times reverses their meanings.”
I have always loved the Writings of the Báb and stories associated with Him, so when I heard about this book while serving in Haifa, I knew I had to read it.  I can’t wait to finish it.

Zikrullah Khadem, Itinerant Hand of the Cause of God With Love, by Javidukht Khadem
-I had the blessing of growing up near Mrs. Khadem (who passed away over a year ago), and to read this book was a wonderful glimpse into their lives together, and allowed me to know a little bit more about Mr. Khadem, Hand of the Cause of God. Their children also include some stories and thoughts at the end of the book.

The Advent of Divine Justice, by Shoghi Effendi
-The Guardian wrote this letter to the American Baha’is to discuss its challenges and opportunities.  A must read, especially for Baha’is living in the USA.

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Recent events

The weekend before last I drove to Kansas City with some friends for the wedding that we now call “Lovefest 2008”, otherwise known as Andrew & Erin’s wedding.  Here are some things that I learned:

– You can’t rent a car without a credit card, and the person with the credit card has to be the main driver.  This was discovered on the morning that we were to leave.  Luckily we were saved by a friend and made it to the wedding.

– It was confirmed that Iowa is still full of corn.  Hasn’t changed since the last time I drove through it.

– We got a lot of attention at a gas station in Missouri.  Apparently the attendents were extremely bored.  We also bought Amish-made goods from a very sweet Amish family.

– Cracker Barrel has nearly nothing for gluten-intolerant or vegetarian individuals.  You should have seen our faces when we looked at the menu.

– My friends are amazing, rare individuals and it is very sad that we all live so far away from each other. 🙁

– Even though I am allergic to cats, and don’t like them very much anyway (more of a dog person), cats LOVE me.  I’m like the cat whisperer.  It is really weird.

– I love, love, love weddings. Having the opportunity to read at this wedding was such a blessing, and I was honored to be a small part of it. They are such a beautiful couple and I’m so happy for them!

This past weekend I had a lot of family in town from my mother’s side, and it was also the Conference of the Association of Friends of Persian Culture. Here are a few tidbits from that time:

– My family is great, and every time I hang out with them I see more of where I come from. It is so strange and wonderful to find out things about myself and my history, and I know these opportunities are rare.

– I actually enjoyed going to most of the sessions, there were some highly academic talks and I really missed being in that atmosphere.

– I got very little sleep, as is normal for a conference, and stayed up late with friends, talking about the good old days and laughing. Much needed.

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Constantinople and Adrianople

When I was booking my plane tickets from Haifa to Chicago, I decided that I wanted to stop for two days in Turkey for sightseeing and pilgrimage.  So…I did. Go here for the entire set of pictures.

I arrived in Istanbul at 1 pm on Monday afternoon, the 16th of June, checked into my hotel, and promptly set off in the direction of the old city, on foot, alone.  There were so many things to see, and although I was exhausted (having had very little sleep for the last 36 hours), I wanted to see as much as I could. I was hungry, but unwilling to stop at a restaurant, so I purchased a bag of Turkish delight (lokum) to eat as I walked.

Sultan Ahmed Mosque
(I had to walk around it before I went in, just to take in the sheer size of it)

I also saw the outside of the Hagia Sophia, a lot of random parks, and historic-looking buildings. I explored the Kapalıçarşı (“Covered Bazaar”), where a carpet seller tried to ask me on a date. After that experience, I switched my ring to my left ring finger and pretended like I didn’t hear guys when they would talk to me. Traveling alone can be difficult in that way. I bought a few things there, bargaining ferociously. 🙂 A taxi driver didn’t speak English, but he did point out some historic sites for me, and the Iranian embassy.

Whenever I wanted my picture taken, I would find the nearest American tourist.  They’re so accommodating.  😉

For dinner I found a kabob restaurant, took my food back to the hotel, and slept rather early. Tuesday morning I woke up at 7 am, walked to the train station, then took a bus from Istanbul to Edirne, about 3 hours away. When I arrived at the bus station in Edirne, I had to take a smaller, local bus into the city. The purpose of my visit to Edirne was to visit the House of Baha’u’llah as a pilgrim. Baha’u’llah, the most recent Manifestation of God, lived in Edirne for over four years.

House of Baha’u’llah in Edirne (Adrianople)

I had the opportunity to pray, meditate, and walk in the same streets and gardens that the Blessed Beauty and His followers lived. It was so peaceful there.

The Selimiye Mosque in Edirne was breathtaking, and literally down the street from the House of Baha’u’llah. I sat in the park nearby for a time, enjoying the sun and the view.

I then took a bus, another bus, and a train back to my hotel in Istanbul. The next morning, Thursday, I woke up in a panic, rather late for the airport, and got on my plane to Chicago.  It was the perfect way to end my service in the Holy Land.

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My last post from Haifa

I am here, at 1:30 am, with so much in my heart and so few words. After 18 months in the Holy Land, I leave to go back to the United States in a few hours. Desperately finishing packing (a word of advice: definitely don’t leave this kind of thing to the last minute).

Serving in Haifa was a blessing, and I am overwhelmed by the love and friendship that I have experienced. You all know who you are. You have affected me in so many ways, and I treasure every moment we have had together, and look forward to seeing you again. I have no doubt that we will.

I will be home on Wednesday, after a brief stop in Turkey, which I will write more about after my travels. For now, I want to share an excerpt from something by Hand of the Cause William Sears, which I found while writing my farewell email to the staff at the Baha’i World Centre. It touched my heart in exactly the right way, and explained so well how I am feeling.

I can no longer wait,
The time grows short, the world moves on,
The sun goes down and the hour is late.

Far off I hear His onward marching legions
Drawing nearer
With me, unmoved,
Still standing here.
The trumpet sounds, the sweet beat
Of the distant drums
Rings clear.

I see them now.
With banners flying
And in my heart I fear
They’ll pass me by.
My torch unlit
This winter, spring
This fall, this year.

O God Forbid!

This crisis finds me
Still waiting here.

Some chances, we are told
Come once in life.
Some, every hundred years
And, some like this, of ours
Comes only once
Then never reappears.

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Streams of light

“In this wondrous age, however, praised be God, the commandments of God are not delimited, not restricted to any one group of people, rather have all the friends been commanded to show forth fellowship and love, consideration and generosity and loving-kindness to every community on earth. Now must the lovers of God arise to carry out these instructions of His: let them be kindly fathers to the children of the human race, and compassionate brothers to the youth, and self-denying offspring to those bent with years. The meaning of this is that ye must show forth tenderness and love to every human being, even to your enemies, and welcome them all with unalloyed friendship, good cheer, and loving-kindness. When ye meet with cruelty and persecution at another’s hands, keep faith with him; when malevolence is directed your way, respond with a friendly heart. To the spears and arrows rained upon you, expose your breasts for a target mirror-bright; and in return for curses, taunts and wounding words, show forth abounding love. Thus will all peoples witness the power of the Most Great Name, and every nation acknowledge the might of the Ancient Beauty, and see how He hath toppled down the walls of discord, and how surely He hath guided all the peoples of the earth to oneness; how He hath lit man’s world, and made this earth of dust to send forth streams of light.”

 (Selections from the Writings of Abdu’l-Baha, p. 20)

To carry out these instructions in practice is our struggle, our daily test.  And it is so easy to fall into the traps of our lower nature, which urge us to fight, to treat others with disrespect, cruelty, and even hatred.  It is an active process, something we must pay attention to and guard our behavior.

I have been so blessed in my life to be surrounded by individuals who manifest the positive qualities listed above.  It saddens me to leave the ones that I have served with at the Baha’i World Centre, but I am so, so happy that I have had the opportunity to meet them, if only for a fleeting moment in eternity.

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month 18

The eyes of strangers touch, leap across crowded spaces, and safe smiles reach the lips, are traded, and fade.  The touching of eyes crosses space, marble floors, dirt paths, and place settings with coffee stains and the remnants of sugar packets.

Eyelashes are beautiful things, wet with the tears that never fall from my eyes, or shining to frame your (their) face(s) as we (they) talk earnestly, in a thousand places and combinations.

I will hear my alarm in four hours.  In the darkness we fumble for our keys, and I will circle the stone paths in whispers for the first and last time.   Dawn prayers.

It all becomes more real, and in one month my world shifts again.

I was holding a brown child in my arms last night (in my dreams).  He had soft, curly hair and he was not necessarily my child, but I was caring for him.  I carried him through ballrooms, as technical crews set up the rooms and we wandered the back hallways.

We looked at each other, looked in each other’s eyes, and laughed, inches away from each others faces.  He grew up, in an instant, and asked why I carried him…he was old enough now.  So we walked past the zoo, and he talked to the animals, and we walked down the shore of Lake Michigan.

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To write it all down would take years…

This is where I have been for the last week or so:

Baha’i World News Service is doing a great job of covering the International Baha’i Convention, and I highly recommend checking out their stories and pictures…it will give you a glimpse into this amazing process.

As it turns out, evenings at the Convention Center tend to be pretty quiet, so I sat down for a moment to take off my heels and write a post.

I’ve seen friends from around the world, I have interacted with and assisted delegates from more places than I can count, I’ve had a smile on my face for nearly a week now and I can’t help but keep smiling! They are all so beautiful, and the atmosphere here is indescribable.

One of my favorite moments was when over 1500 people from around the world circled around the Shrine of Baha’u’llah on the 9th Day of Ridvan. (pictures here) It gave me a better understanding of how global our Faith truly is…the sky was blue and perfect:


the flowers were in bloom:

flowers in bloom at Bahji

and everything was right with the world, in those moments.

Happy Ridvan.

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A little bit of silence

For the next week, I’ll be a little busy.  Please forgive me if I don’t answer emails/messages/notes/phone calls/carrier pigeons/smoke signals.   🙂

“The light that is shed from the heaven of bounty, and the benediction that shineth from the dawning-place of the will of God, the Lord of the Kingdom of Names, rest upon Him Who is the Supreme Mediator, the Most Exalted Pen, Him Whom God hath made the Dawning-Place of His most excellent names and the Dayspring of His most exalted attributes. Through Him the light of unity hath shone forth above the horizon of the world, and the law of oneness hath been revealed amidst the nations, who, with radiant faces, have turned towards the Supreme Horizon, and acknowledged that which the Tongue of Utterance hath spoken in the kingdom of His knowledge: “Earth and heaven, glory and dominion, are God’s, the Omnipotent, the Almighty, the Lord of grace abounding!””

  (Baha’u’llah, Epistle to the Son of the Wolf, p. 1)

“He has ordained and established the House of Justice which is endowed with a political as well as a religious function, the consummate union and blending of church and state. This institution is under the protecting power of Bahá’u’lláh Himself.”

    (Abdu’l-Baha, Baha’i World Faith, p. 247)

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Tonight, at Bahji…

I walked around the gardens, and picked up a fallen flower to hold close to my heart.

I ran down a path in darkness and silently shouted to the palm trees and sky, a promise and a blessing.



Tonight, at Bahji, I continued the process of letting go. Of people, of places, of expectations, of the labels and insecurities and confusing thoughts. And I reconstructed, strengthening ties and bonds and the pieces of spirit between all of us that hold us together. Letting go and holding on are not all that different, after all.

Be a true friend. Be loving and mindful of the tests that we are all going through. Be compassionate, firm, and joyful. Seek out justice. Continue to learn patience. Continue to learn everything.

This is a reminder to me, but also to you.

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The Sea of Galilee

I am come in my Father’s name, and ye receive me not: if another shall come in his own name, him ye will receive.

How can ye believe, which receive honour one of another, and seek not the honour that cometh from God only? Do not think that I will accuse you to the Father: there is one that accuseth you, even Moses, in whom ye trust.

For had ye believed Moses, ye would have believed me; for he wrote of me.

But if ye believe not his writings, how shall ye believe my words? After these things Jesus went over the sea of Galilee, which is the sea of Tiberias.

And a great multitude followed him, because they saw his miracles which he did on them that were diseased.  And Jesus went up into a mountain, and there he sat with his disciples.

 (King James Bible, John)

This weekend I took an impromptu trip to the Sea of Galilee, also known as Lake Kinneret.  It is fascinating to visit these places as a Baha’i…not only is there the wealth of Christian history in this area, but also Baha’i history.  I’ve posted some pictures of my visit to the area here.  I haven’t traveled a lot within Israel, especially since many of the historic places are not generally advisable to visit.  It is such a gift to be able to see these places with my own eyes.

Growing up in a Christian country as a member of the Baha’i Faith, I absorbed a lot of things, but seeing these physical locations made me really want to read the Bible all the way through.  I started in college, and even attended a Bible study (but was quickly written off as “unlikely to convert” haha), but now I want to gain a better understanding.  Especially considering the fact that Baha’is believe in the Divinity of Jesus and consider Him to be a Manifestation of God, just as Abraham, Zoroaster, Krishna, Moses, Buddha, Muhammad, the Bab, and Baha’u’llah.

It also brought home the point that the above passage from the Bible illustrates: that whenever a new Manifestation of God appears on the earth, we reject Him, we turn away and we subject Them to the worst kinds of degredation.  And yet God continues to send His Messengers to us.  The ultimate form of love.

In any case, it was wonderful to be able to spend the day with my relatives and get out of the city.  We were able to visit the resting place of Mirza Muhammad-Quli, a brother of Baha’u’llah.  “This great man was known even from his childhood for nobility of soul….he was detached from every selfish thought, averse to every mention except to whatever concerned the Holy Cause.” -Abdu’l-Baha, Memorials of the Faithful, p. 69

This weekend was also interesting because several religious holy days all happened within a few days of each other…and of course, living in Israel, I saw this happening in front of my eyes.   Naw-Ruz, of course, is the Baha’i New Year, and there was a celebration here that I attended…it was beautiful.  Purim, a Jewish holiday; Good Friday & Easter…suffice to say Haifa was a noisy city for the last few days.

It was so warm on Friday that I spent the morning out on my balcony in the sun. 

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It is easy to get caught up in the excitement of the current election in the USA, but I feel that it is important to be very clear about how I, as a Baha’i, discuss these matters. I decided to write this post after several conversations with friends, reading the news, and observations about the confusion that seems to exist among some Baha’is regarding this issue. These are obviously my personal opinions, and if you want more background I would recommend doing your own research (try downloading Ocean). If you are not a Baha’i, I hope this clarifies some points about how I, personally, respond to political discussions, as well as the nature of Baha’i elections.

I try to apply the principles of a Baha’i election (for which we have very clear guidance) to my attitude toward civil politics.

Bahá’í community life thus makes it a duty for every loyal land faithful believer to become an intelligent, well-informed and responsible elector, and also gives him the opportunity of raising himself to such a station. And since the practice of nomination hinders the development of such qualities in the believers, and in addition leads to corruption and partisanship, it has to be entirely discarded in a Bahá’í elections.”

(From a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to an individual believer, February 4, 1935)

Baha’i elections are carried out by secret ballot and votes are confidential. Therefore, if I would not say something in reference to a Baha’i election, then I would not say it in reference to a civil election. For example, I would NOT say, “I think one of the members of the Local Spiritual Assembly should be re-elected.”, or “I think so-and-so’s policies are really great, people should vote for them.”

“As regards the non-political character of the Faith,… The friends may vote, if they can do it without identifying themselves with one party or another. To enter the arena of party politics is surely detrimental to the best interests of the Faith and will harm the Cause. It remains for the individuals to so use their right to vote as to keep aloof from party politics, and always bear in mind that they are voting on the merits of the individual, rather than because he belongs to one party or another. The matter must be made perfectly clear to the individuals who will be left free to exercise their discretion and judgement.

 (From a letter written on the behalf of Shoghi Effendi to the National Spiritual Assembly of the United States and Canada, March 16, 1933)

The focal point of the Baha’i Faith is the unification of mankind, and unfortunately the majority of society’s political processes are fundamentally divisive.

The central importance of the principle of avoidance of politics and controversial matters is that Bahá’ís should not allow themselves to be involved in the disputes of the many conflicting elements of the society around them. The aim of the Bahá’ís is to reconcile viewpoints, to heal divisions, and to bring about tolerance and mutual respect among men, and this aim is undermined if we allow ourselves to be swept along by the ephemeral passions of others. This does not mean that Bahá’ís cannot collaborate with any non-Bahá’í movement; it does mean that good judgment is required to distinguish those activities and associations which are beneficial and constructive from those which are divisive.

 (The Universal House of Justice, 2003 Jan 12, Taking Positions on Political Decisions of Governments)

There are, of course, a lot of issues facing the world, and as Baha’is we are asked to be an active part of the world around us. We are also exhorted to uphold a high standard, and that includes our speech and how we express our personal opinions. I do think that it is my duty to exercise my right to vote (as long as I don’t have to state party affiliation), and I plan on doing so.

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What is Ayyam-i-Ha in the Holy Land?

I didn’t do anything for Ayyam-i-Ha last year…I am pretty sure I spent the Intercalary Days cleaning my house and reading.

This year has been vastly different. On the first day, Tuesday, I spent the evening at my friend’s house for “Ladies Night”…which mostly consisted of watching a movie, eating, and talking about very random things. Last night (Wednesday) I went to another friend’s house for a Chili dinner/Musical Devotional. I ate 3 very large bowls of chili, and then we sang songs, said prayers, and played musical catch phrase. There was much laughter, which was desperately needed.

Tonight I plan on doing nothing. Well, “doing nothing” in my world means cooking food for the next few days, doing a little art project, and probably watching a movie. Tomorrow night (Friday) I am going to an Ayyam-i-Ha party, and then Saturday morning I am having brunch. Saturday afternoon I am going hiking in the Haifa forest.

This year is much better than last year. These days outside of time have been a welcome respite from a very busy work schedule, and of course an opportunity to prepare for the Fast, which starts on Sunday.

I got mystery chocolate in inter-office mail today…apparently a few other people did too! yum. As an extra-special treat, 3 of my favorite ladies just stopped by my office on their way out to say goodnight. 🙂

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A day with the ladies

A Saturday unplanned became a Saturday of relaxation and time with friends.

I went next door for brunch, and six lovely ladies and I cooked and ate a large meal…eggs, bacon, pancakes, potatoes, coffee, tea…yum. Then I hopped on a sherut and went to Bahji for the rest of the day.

This is what it looked like:

It is khamsin (dust storm) season, so the sky was not clear, but it was still warm and beautiful…I wandered the gardens for a while by myself.

A large group of us ate dinner back in Haifa at 14 Sheks (I doubt anyone actually knows the real name of that place), then Roya and I went to my place to watch Chocolat and drink…hot chocolate. 🙂 Perfect ending to the day.

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