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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.

3 New Tablets for the Twin Holy Days

This year, for the first time in the history of the Baha’i Era, the Birth of the Bab and the Birth of Baha’u’llah – also known as the Twin Holy Days – will be celebrated at the same time by Baha’is all over the world (in 2015 the Twin Holy Days fall on November 13th and 14th).

In honour of this historic occasion, the Universal House of Justice released three newly translated Tablets: one celebrates the Birth of the Bab, and two are dedicated to the Birth of Baha’u’llah. These tablets, all penned by Baha’u’llah, will be included in a volume called Days of Remembrance which will be available later next year. Continue reading

Consultation: A Perspective

(Photo courtesy: Baha'i World Centre)

Consultation is a distinctive and unifying method of decision-making that is used by Baha’is whether at home, among friends, or while serving on committees or institutions at any level.

Baha’u’llah stated:

No welfare and no well-being can be attained except through consultation.

Shoghi Effendi also said that:

…consultation, frank and unfettered, is the bedrock of this unique Order.

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5 Great Online Sources to Help You Study the Baha’i Faith

If you’re looking for a place to deepen and study about the Baha’i Faith online, here is a list of five great places to start:

1. The Wilmette Institute: www.wi.bahai.us

The Wilmette Instituteis an online Baha’i Learning Centre that just celebrated its 20th birthday. They offer more than 50 unique courses on the web to an average of 30 students per course and some 7,000 students residing in almost 100 countries have participated in Wilmette courses. Upcoming classes for 2015 include topics such as Abdu’l-Baha: His Life and Ministry, An Introduction to Shaykhism, Exploring the Baha’i Calendar, Economics and the Baha’i Faith, Baha’u’llah’s Early Mystic Writings, World Federation, and many others.

The average course is 7 weeks long, but some are as long as 17 weeks and each course typically requires about 5 hours of study per week. Faculty members instruct the courses, mentors assist the students with questions, and online forums permit students to enrich each other’s learning. Continue reading

3 Ways to Become a Better Listener

Listening isn’t easy. There is so much more to it than allowing sound waves to tickle their way into your ears. How can we become better listeners? In reflecting on this question, I have the following three suggestions:

1. A Gentle Silence is Golden

Baha’u’llah says that “the tongue is a smoldering fire and excess of speech a deadly poison.” I have grappled with these striking and powerful words for a long time but I know it to be true from all those times I found myself in conversation just itching to put forward my ideas and ignoring what others were saying. My excess of speech consumed me and deafened me and I am slowly learning that the way to be a better listener is to simply. Stop. Talking. Howard Colby Ives, an early Baha’i, describes this feeling perfectly and he explains how Abdu’l-Baha was the perfect listener. Ives writes: Continue reading

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