Three years ago in February, our family was united after an arduous adoption journey. We arrived a family of four to the Democratic Republic of the Congo on the first day of Ayyam-i-Ha and left a complete family of six. That year, the days of this festival were marked with exceptional joy, fellowship and opportunities for service; and as a family, we see the days of Ayyam-i-Ha as a gift and opportunity each year to remember how thankful we are for one another, for our wonderful Faith, our community and the opportunity to be of service wherever we are. Continue reading
The path to finding a mate for life is not easy. Through my personal life and my work as a marriage and relationship educator and coach, I have seen how perseverance, courage, discernment, and commitment are all essential. We and the world need strong, happy marriages that are fortresses of well-being.
We are not yet living in a world that has established a common pattern of courtship based on the Baha’i Teachings. As a result, individuals and couples are experimenting and trying to find their way – sometimes joyfully and sometimes with more difficulty.
As you know, courtship practices differ greatly from one culture to another, and it is not yet known what pattern of courtship will emerge in the future when society has been more influenced by Baha’i Teachings. However, there is no indication that it will resemble the practices extant in existing cultures…. In this interim period, the friends are encouraged to make great efforts to live in conformity with the Teachings and to gradually forge a new pattern of behavior, more in keeping with the spirit of Baha’u’llah’s Revelation.
The challenge we face is how to engage in patterns of courtship that strive to implement Baha’i principles in a world that is “a bewildering moral environment” and in “a society in which materialism, self-centeredness and failing marriages are all too common.”
So, when we look at what possibly aligns with Baha’i courtship, what is important? Continue reading
We are all human and that means we are in the same predicament: we are like a bird that is stuck in the clay of the world, its wings sullied and heavy; we have two selves, one lower, the other higher. So, our task in life is to elevate our souls and escape the grip of the ego. But how?
This is no easy endeavour. But according to the Baha’i Writings, there are a number of ways through which we can grow spiritually. Here are six ways that I’m striving to better myself: Continue reading
Photo: courtesy of the Baha'i International Community
The materials prepared for the 114 youth conferences held around the world in 2013 tell us that youth have a great responsibility to contribute to the betterment of society. Their efforts are more effective if they are able to multiply their society-transforming powers by developing the capacity to create an atmosphere of mutual support and assistance among themselves and in their communities. This can complement their reliance on God’s unfailing assistance and act as a positive force that helps them overcome the negative forces in society which attempt to sap their powers and lead them astray from their purpose. Continue reading
(Photo courtesy: Baha'i International Community)
“It’s the thought that counts” is a common English expression. Perhaps we give someone a present that we think they will love, and either they already have it, or they just don’t like it. The person is (hopefully) pleased anyway because they know that we meant well.
Abdu’l-Baha says that purity of motive is extremely important:
Your hearts must be pure and your intentions sincere in order that you may become recipients of the divine bestowals… This is the day when pure hearts have a portion of the everlasting bounties and sanctified souls are being illumined by the eternal manifestations.
So, in regards to the “failed” present, it doesn’t matter so much that the present was not loved or needed by the recipient. It is that we gave it out of the goodness of our heart. Continue reading
Todd Steinberg, a prison volunteer, and a group of Baha'is celebrated the Twin Holy Days at the Allred Unit prison in Texas, USA with pizza, wings, devotions and stories from the life of Baha'u'llah.
Sharing the Baha’i Faith with prisoners is difficult at times, and talking about it presents its own problems, but several friends asked me to write about my experiences working with inmates who found the Baha’i Faith while in prison.
When an interested soul in prison reaches out to the Baha’i community, usually in the form of a letter written to a Spiritual Assembly, that person’s correspondence is their only live contact with the Baha’i world. Continue reading
Although it is not an authorized quote of His teachings, Juliet Thompson recounts in her diary how Abdu’l-Baha said:
Man must always associate with those from whom he can get light, or be with those to whom he can give light. He must either receive or give instructions. Continue reading
Two years ago the president of Brazil, Dilma Rousseff, wrote to the Universal House of Justice inviting it to provide a statement on the occasion of the 20th World Cup. President Rousseff saw the World Cup as an opportunity to further the cause of peace and the elimination of prejudice.
The response from the Universal House of Justice, and its tribute to the people of Brazil, is very moving (it can be read in full here). I took the opportunity to read the letter again, as it gave me a lens through which to watch the Rio de Janeiro 2016 Olympic Games. It highlights three positive aspects of the World Cup and these ideals were also demonstrated in the Olympics which just closed. They will undoubtably also be found in the Paralympic Games about to commence.
1. A Celebration of Diversity
The opening paragraph of the letter includes these words:
Few occasions can claim to embrace so wide a cross-section of humanity, comprising peoples of varied ethnic, religious, and cultural backgrounds. It is clear to every observer that the sport that has brought these nations to Brazil is only strengthened by the marvellous diversity of the participants. To rejoice in this fact is to reject prejudice in all its forms.
The individual stands between the world and God, surrounded by other fellow beings in the same scenario. So should our attention be put on God, ourselves or other people? A Sufi quote says something interesting on the matter:
Act as if there were no one on earth but you and no one in Heaven but God. – al-Antaki
This sounds a bit selfish and even solipsistic but there seems to be some sense in it. It takes us back to the mystery that we all inhabit our own private universes. We can only think, feel, and understand from within our own view-point and can only infer what is happening in other people’s private worlds. The most fundamental relationship is between the individual and God. He is our creator, sustainer and salvation, so naturally our attention should be focused on Him.
This does not mean that other individuals are not important but that they are no substitute for God and should not stand between us and Him. For this reason, in the end, the only relationship that we can fully depend on is our own personal relationship with God. All other relationships stem from this one. And if we lose our connection with our Creator, our relationship with others also suffers – for we do not have the spiritual insight and strength to gain the qualities of love, forgiveness, or generosity on our own. Continue reading
The wind blows. Clouds move across the sky. Winter leeches colours from the leaves. Life is movement and change! Or in the words of the ancient Greek philosopher Heraclitus: “No man ever steps in the same river twice.”
When I wandered the lonely and confusing plain between atheism and theism as a spiritual seeker, I reached a stage where I felt bewildered with the transitory nature of the world. I stopped and questioned the very nature of life: change. “Why?” I asked myself, “is there movement and change at all?” It seems like a silly question but when you think about it, God could have created any type of universe, so why did He create one that was ever-changing and impermanent?
Only some years later did I receive my answer: change is progress. Abdu’l-Baha explains that “Change is a necessary quality and essential attribute of this world, of time and place.” The reason that change is necessary, He explains, is that “the world of existence is progressive”. Continue reading