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Sonjel Vreeland

In her innermost heart, Sonjel is a mother, a wife and a bookworm but professionally she is a museologist and a library technician. She currently lives on Prince Edward Island, an isle in the shape of a smile on the eastern Canadian coast. Sonjel is a writer who loves to listen to jazz when she's driving at night.

What Happens When Your Faith is Tested – A Personal Reflection

There are many ways in which your faith, your belief in Baha’u’llah and His teachings, can be tested. In its most outwardly violent form, some of us are publicly persecuted, discriminated against, or pressured to recant. Some of us are tested by calamities and intense physical suffering, like the loss of a loved one, or the destruction of everything you own. For some, other people — including other Baha’is — are a test of faith. Who hasn’t experienced difficulties with someone who just “rubs you the wrong way” or whose understanding of a teaching stands in sharp contrast to your own? And we can all be a test to ourselves. I was once asked, “What do you do when there is an aspect of your religion that troubles you? What do you do then?” I mumbled through an answer but studying excerpts from the 19 April 2013 message from the Universal House of Justice has helped me think through my answer to this question more profoundly. Continue reading

Leaves of Wisdom: A Baha’i Colouring Resource for Children

Monika Mackenzie is the artist behind the newly released Leaves of Wisdom: A Baha’i Colouring Resource for Children (Volume 1), which contains over 100 illustrations. She’s also the illustrator behind the Facebook page Bahai Colouring Pages, where you are warmly encouraged to save, share and print what’s posted. Her work includes beautifully illustrated quotations from the Writings, or phrases like “Happy Naw Ruz”, and is a wonderful resource for parents, children’s class teachers or for programs for little ones during Holy Day celebrations, Feasts or other gatherings. Leaves of Wisdom was launched on Ridvan and I was delighted when Monika agreed to tell us a little bit about herself, her unique artwork, and her desire to share it with everyone. Continue reading

How Baha’i History is Charted

The Revelation of Baha’u’llah redefines everything, including how history is charted and mapped. The sacred history of the Faith was (and will continue to be) delineated into cycles, ages, epochs and stages as explained by Abdu’l-Baha and Shoghi Effendi. This conception of time is both linear and cyclical, and in this article, I’ve attempted to briefly outline how Baha’i history is charted. Continue reading

Shoghi Effendi: Through the Pilgrim’s Eye – A New Book by Earl Redman

Earl Redman is the author of an exciting volume about the Guardian that is fresh off the press called Shoghi Effendi: Through the Pilgrim’s Eye. You may already be familiar with his work; in celebration of the centenary of Abdu’l-Baha’s visit to the West, Earl Redman gathered together all the historical accounts of the Master’s travels and put them into chronological order in Abdu’l-Baha in Their Midst. When I contacted Earl about a possible interview, we discovered we had a mutual friend — my grandma and writer, Claire Vreeland. She compiled a book of pioneer stories (entitled And the Trees Clapped Their Hands) in which both of our families’ pioneering accounts are included. Linked through stories, I was keen to ask Earl about his creative process and the legwork behind his fascinating new book.

Baha’i Blog: Thank you for taking the time to talk to us, Earl. To begin, can you tell us a little bit about yourself and your work as a writer?

In 1977, I fell off a mountain. Or rather was invited to fall off the mountain when a friend I was roped to was blown down a steep, icy face on Mt Foraker in Alaska. We fell about a thousand feet and, during the fall, I left my body. The body was on its way to death, but I didn’t care. When I finally stopped the fall, I had two powerful emotions. First, while the body and the soul were separate, I was absolutely disgusted because I was back in, at that time, a rather battered body. That was followed, after the soul rejoined the body, by a feeling of absolute delight that I was still alive.

Knowing that the body and the soul were separate, I was prepared to listen when I met a Baha’i named Sharon. She talked of the Faith and, on the day we were married in 1980, I became a Baha’i. Since then, we pioneered in Chile for six years and have now been pioneering in Ireland for sixteen years.

I have always like to write, though I never expected to write a book. Some of my early stories somehow ended up in a book called And the Trees Clapped Their Hands. I also contributed to the Alaska Baha’i News. Professionally as a geologist, I wrote many reports and my first published book was about the history of the mines and miners in Southeast Alaska, based on many old newspaper stories. I never set out to write books on Baha’i history. They all just sort of appeared on my computer screen, quite to my surprise.

Continue reading

The Baha’i Fund: An Introduction

Abdu’l-Baha said that the material and the spiritual are closely linked. Have you ever seen something reflected in water so still that it seemed a perfect, upside-down duplicate but beyond the reflection were unfathomable depths? That is how I imagine the connection to be between this material world and spiritual existence.

Recently I’ve been thinking about this relationship, particularly as it relates to the Baha’i fund, where money is no longer just money. Continue reading

5 Thoughts About Oneness

I find that sometimes having a question in the forefront of my mind can make certain answers more apparent — like when you close your eyes, think of the colour blue, and then open them again. Everything blue pops out in sharper contrast than before. What was muted becomes vibrant, and impossible to ignore.

These days I am wondering about oneness and am trying to keep the question in the fore of my personal deepening. What does “oneness” truly mean? The Merriam-Webster dictionary tells us that it is “the state of being completely united with or a part of someone or something” but what does that mean in practical terms? What effect does it have on our spiritual lives?

I have often explained the Baha’i Faith in terms of believing in the three onenesses: the oneness of humanity (that we are all equal despite differences in culture, ethnicity, gender, and our physical bodies), the oneness of the Manifestations (that They are all divine in origin), and the oneness of God (regardless of whether we call Him Dieu, Allah or Jehovah, He is one in essence). These words have rolled off my tongue without deeper, significant thought but recently I have been contemplating these five points: Continue reading

The Wilmette Institute: Celebrating 20 Years of Baha’i Learning

This year will mark the 20th anniversary of the Wilmette Institute, an online Baha’i learning centre that offers academic, professional and service-orientated Baha’i classes. In celebration, they are offering a series of free web talks throughout the whole year. These talks are being recorded and posted to their YouTube Channel, in case you miss their live presentations. We’d like to join in the happy occasion by telling you a little about the Institute and about all the exciting things it offers to students around the world. Continue reading

Music with Zest – An Interview with Lemon Soul Trio

As the Faith grows and develops, the artistic expression of its followers blossoms and grows. Recorded devotional music in French are rare gems so I was ecstatic when I learned about Lemon Soul Trio, a band whose motto is “un antidote contre le blues” (which roughly translates as “an antidote for the blues”) – a clever turn of phrase considering their jazzy, bluesy, world-music style.

Their first album, which bears their band’s name, was released in October 2014. It contains 9 tracks – a propitious number! While the majority of their lyrics are in French, their music is global in its appeal. The group is composed of three very talented musicians: Margaret Harmer, a percussionist; Nicolas Leroy, a guitarist; and Yasmin Farhoumand, a vocalist.

I was eager to find out more and Yasmin agreed to share some behind-the-tunes information on behalf of the band about their exciting work. Continue reading

Happy Heart Kid: Character-building Activity Kits for Kids

Empathy Activity Kit. Photo courtesy of Happy Heart Kid

I get really excited when I find out about products for children that aim to assist with their moral and spiritual development. I am so grateful to live in this age of instant communication so I can ask other Baha’i mothers questions about the materials and tools they have created and use in their daily lives but there are so few resources out there that are already thoughtfully assembled and ready to go. So you can imagine my joy in discovering Happy Heart Kid, a company that makes character building activity kits for little ones! I was eager to find out all about it and Archana Jiwnani, the woman behind Happy Heart Kid, was happy to oblige. Continue reading

An Introduction to The Tabernacle of Unity

The Tabernacle of Unity is a beautiful volume containing five tablets (or letters) revealed by Baha’u’llah to people of Zoroastrian background, among which are many familiar passages previously translated by Shoghi Effendi.

In 2006 the Universal House of Justice compiled this book of authorized translations and now the tablets that those passages were excerpted from are available in full in English. You might be familiar with Baha’u’llah’s powerful words “Ye are the fruits of one tree and the leaves of one branch” and the volume gets its title from this quote in the book’s opening tablet: Continue reading