The Greatest Gift

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October 30, 2019-

As I mentioned yesterday, these two days mark the consecutive birth anniversaries of Baha’u’llah and His Forerunner/Herald, al-Bab.  I have recounted the story of Baha’u’llah in previous posts, over the years.

In this post, I wish to note why His life and those of other Divine Messengers, are important to people of all faiths, or of no faith.   Rather than see these Great Beings as merely Founders of competing religions, it is beneficial to view Them as guides to the continuous process of the unfolding of human spirituality-as it pertains to both the life of the individual and the life of society.

We have progressed, in fits and starts, from the relationship of the individual to the Divine (the Revelations of Adam, Abraham and Noah); through the spirituality of the human family and clans (Krishna and Zoroaster); the spiritual focus of tribes (Moses and countless Teachers of Indigenous Peoples, across the world); detachment from fortune and misfortune, alike (Gautama Siddhartha); unconditional love, across boundaries (Jesus the Christ) and spiritual guidance of nations (Muhammad).  The Twin Messengers, al-Bab and Baha’u’llah, have extended the knowledge available to us, that the common people of the Earth may both determine their own spiritual destiny and organize the spiritual unification of the entire planet.

Baha’u’llah’s Revelation, far from being yet another means to sectarian division, is a road map away from  human-caused cataclysm and strife.  This is the underpinning of my belief that all people possess the means to seek and find Truth, both independently and in groups.

Two Centuries Ago

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October 29, 2019-

Two hundred years ago,

Europe was pulling itself out of the wreckage of  the Napoleonic Wars.

The young United States of America was also healing from the wounds of  its second major war.

Asia was finding that Europeans, and some Americans, were interested in far more than trading goods. British outposts in Australia and India were established, towards the goal of domination of Asia. Spain had done likewise, in the Philippines.  France, Portugal and the Netherlands were not far behind.

Africa was seeing its enslavement declining, but a bigger problem-European ownership of land, would soon become the order of the age.  The Dutch had already established a settlement near the Cape of Good Hope.

In Persia (now Iran), a land that was seeing its own slow decline, two children were born, one in 1817, the other in 1819- with their birthdays coming a day apart. These boys would grow into men who would realize high spiritual stations.   These Messengers would stand out from Their peers, require little or no formal education and stand up, however respectfully, to the increasingly corrupt and wayward clergy and royalty of the Persian Empire.

The first of the two to declare His Mission was Mirza Ali Muhammad, known to posterity as al-Bab (  “Bab” being Arabic for “gate”.  He is commonly called The Bab, in English-speaking countries.) He was born in 1819, thus being honoured in the Bicentenary of His Birth, during this week.

Al-Bab was the Herald, or Forerunner, of Baha’u’llah, and declared His Mission in May, 1844, in the southern Persian city of Shiraz.  He appealed to thousands who were disillusioned by the state of Persian society.  Corruption and decadent behaviour were rife, across the country.  It was to this scene that Al-Bab spread His message that the human race should prepare itself for a Messenger, Who would bring Teachings that would unite humanity-not by force or by deception, but by independent investigation of truth and gradual bringing together of the hearts and minds of men.  This, of course, alarmed the powers that were, who, fearing the loss of their status, imprisoned al-Bab in three separate locations.  None of the three served to squelch His appeal to the masses.  Thus, in July, 1850, al-Bab was executed by firing squad, in the main square of Tabriz, in northwest Persia.  This, likewise, failed to destroy the Faith He had established.

Baha’u’llah, likewise, would endure His own series of persecutions,  to which I will refer tomorrow, on the 202nd anniversary of His birth.

Another Song Celestial

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September 29, 2019-

The humble, soft-spoken man recounted the life of his father, who is, to date, the only conscientious objector to receive the Congressional Medal of Honor.  Desmond Doss, Sr. was portrayed by the actor Andrew Garfield, in the film “Hacksaw Ridge”.  His son  briefly detailed the actual man and the fullness of his life, at yesterday’s Hope Fest.

Desmond Doss, Jr. is at lower left, below.

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This day-long celebration of purpose-driven life is primarily about service to the community, with a clear message that peoples’ lives are best led through a personal relationship with Jesus the Christ.  I have helped the organizers of this effort, for the past five years.  One of the elements of this event is recognizing and honouring the veterans of present and past conflicts.  VietNam is not the least of these conflicts.

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Though I take a longer view, seeing a relationship with the Creator and His Messengers as essential to a well-lived life, by way of accepting that Revelation is progressive and God’s message unending, I see that encouraging others in the positive,  personal growth-oriented aspects of their own Faith is the finer path.

I came by my understanding of Baha’u’llah’s Teachings honestly, and will never hide my Faith from anyone.  It was actually the very essence of what Jesus the Christ taught, that love is paramount, which drew me to the Baha’i Faith, as “Love is the secret of God’s holy Dispensation, the manifestation of the All-Merciful, the fountain of spiritual outpourings.”- ‘Abdu’l-Baha, Selections from the Writings of ‘Abdu’l-Baha

It never made sense to me, even as a child, that God would visit Mankind with His Grace but once.  Knowledge given is as the rays of the Sun.  The solar rays of a thousand years ago, of ten thousand years ago, warmed the Earth and were beneficial.  They remain praiseworthy, for all they brought forth.  Likewise, the rays of the present day sustain life.  They, too, deserve our appreciation.  Understanding all that is given us, by the Creator, is a worthy effort.

So I offer service to those who themselves serve others, in the highest way they can conceive.  It is our shared love for humanity that propels gatherings like Hope Fest.  Long may they continue, and bear fruit.

Unlimited Doors

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May 29, 2019-

On this day,

127 years ago, Baha’u’llah ascended to the next realm.  The door of His Teachings remains wide open, to all who seek.

102 years ago, John F. Kennedy was born, in Brookline, MA.  His work was unfinished and his potential far from realized, when the door to his life here was slammed shut, in 1963.

55 years ago, my youngest brother, Brian, was born, in Melrose, MA.  His purpose here was to train us all in unconditional love.  From the looks of how my family has lived, since his passing, in 1994, I’d say his work was successful.

This past April, a door to my working full-time closed.  Since then, other doors have remained ajar.  This is the truth behind- “When one door closes, another will open.”

Some doors can appear, from a distance, to be closed.  Sometimes, that is simply the result of skewed vision.

Other doors, which one tries to close, remain open because they have contents within that are needed for a healthy life.

Then, there are those others, which are better off shut, no matter how much one thinks that what’s inside is desirable.

May my ability to choose the right doors remain strong.

 

 

Ever-Advancing

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May 2, 2019-

Here’s what I’ve experienced,

over nearly seven decades.

For every person who has left my side,

five more have appeared.

For every person who has stuck his foot out,

so as to trip me up,

ten pairs of hands have broken my fall.

For every voice of doom,

there have been a dozen angels,

singing of hope and gladness.

For each act of destruction,

a host of projects,

glistening with resilience,

have sallied forth.

In each person,

who bristles outwardly with hate,

I see a small shining star,

struggling to get out,

and so dissipate,

the outer darkness.

In each act of destruction,

there is the seed of recovery,

that will burst forth,

given its nourishment.

One hundred fifty-six years ago, today,

the Light of the World,

set forth, once again,

to bring hope and strength,

to creatures that their Creator

loves so well.

Through all the darkness,

into the light,

we, of humanity,

are ever-advancing.

(Today is the Twelfth Day of Ridvan, commemorating Baha’u’llah’s departure from Baghdad, together with his family and closest followers, for the north of Iraq and on into Turkey.)

 

Meeting Needs of Self and Others

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April 30, 2019-

I spent a few hours, this morning, with a small group of people whose world view is something of a throwback to the time when Big Band music was de rigeur and good manners were the bedrock of society.  They are finding it hard to deal with the unraveling of society, viewing liberalism as the cause.  In my view, it is simply one reaction to the upheavals, rather than being causative.

Yesterday, I introduced Baha’u’llah’s prescription for the individual.  Today, let us look at sentences 5-8, of the Tablet:  “Be fair in thy judgment, and guarded in thy speech. Be unjust to no man, and show all meekness to all men. Be as a lamp unto them that walk in darkness, a joy to the sorrowful, a sea for the thirsty, a haven for the distressed, an upholder and defender of the victim of oppression. Let integrity and uprightness distinguish all thine acts.”

The people to whom I refer above would strike some as antiquated in their views.  As many of you know, I associate with many types of people, across the political spectrum and of all ethnicities and Faith groups.  Being fair in judgment so often requires one to hold the tongue- so being guarded in speech is a very critical trait, one on which I had to work very hard.  It does not mean suffering calumnies against other groups or rosily accepting what ever comes out of the person’s mouth, without challenge.  Nonetheless, a person does not do well to “shoot his mouth off.”  Justice shown to one man should not preclude justice to others.  Such would be a false justice.  Meekness- that is something of which I have often been accused.  So, it’s ironic that not being meek was cited as the grounds for my recent change in employment status.  No one can claim perfection.     I do, however, strive for humility, in my dealings with others.

Comfort and defense, both to myself and to those around me, have indeed been primary goals, and these make sentence #7:  “Be as  a lamp unto them that walk in darkness……..”, that much more cogent, the last clause being the driving force behind my having become a counselor and child advocate.  Integrity has been huge; so that even when I have failed in the matter of uprightness, the ownership of those failures has had to be indelible.

So onward I go; forward we all go.  Even when change is difficult to face, let us apply those values we hold dearest, to the resolution of the challenges we face, such as we will ever face.

A Timely Bit of Guidance

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April 29, 2019-

Today was the Ninth Day of Ridvan, the period of time when Baha’u’llah and His family/friends gathered in a garden north of Baghdad, preparing to leave that city, for an overland journey to further exile, in Constantinople (now Istanbul).  We Baha’is commemorate this Day, as it was one of the days that He first spoke more clearly of His Mission to the world.

I wish to share, and to examine closely, a quotation found on page 285 of a compendium of His Writings, itself entitled Gleanings From The Writings of Baha’u’llah.  I find it a good daily guide to my own behaviour, which has a long ways to go.  Then again, isn’t that the whole point of this life- to develop our spiritual qualities before we head for the next level of existence?

“Be generous in prosperity, and thankful in adversity. Be worthy of the trust of thy neighbor, and look upon him with a bright and friendly face. Be a treasure to the poor, an admonisher to the rich, an answerer of the cry of the needy, a preserver of the sanctity of thy pledge. Be fair in thy judgment, and guarded in thy speech. Be unjust to no man, and show all meekness to all men. Be as a lamp unto them that walk in darkness, a joy to the sorrowful, a sea for the thirsty, a haven for the distressed, an upholder and defender of the victim of oppression. Let integrity and uprightness distinguish all thine acts. Be a home for the stranger, a balm to the suffering, a tower of strength for the fugitive. Be eyes to the blind, and a guiding light unto the feet of the erring. Be an ornament to the countenance of truth, a crown to the brow of fidelity, a pillar of the temple of righteousness, a breath of life to the body of mankind, an ensign of the hosts of justice, a luminary above the horizon of virtue, a dew to the soil of the human heart, an ark on the ocean of knowledge, a sun in the heaven of bounty, a gem on the diadem of wisdom, a shining light in the firmament of thy generation, a fruit upon the tree of humility.”-Baha’u’llah

It’s easy to give, when we have lots.  Giving, though, is too easily seen only in terms of money.  Hardly a day goes by, that I don’t see someone standing on a corner, holding a sign, get a message from someone far way-begging for my financial help or get an e-mail from someone with  a money-making scheme.  My generosity, though, is most often put to use, providing someone with information that they can use to help themselves, or extra items that I don’t need, or a connection to resources here in town.  The other gift I can many times offer, is that of time and energy.  Being thankful in adversity:  Well, as I have often done for myself, the thankfulness comes from being able to draw a lesson from the trouble.

Trustworthiness has been the source of a few bumps in my road, in the years immediately following Penny’s passing.  Trust, though, comes from self-knowledge, and self-acceptance.  No one who doubts one’s own worth is going to go the extra mile for another.  It took me a few years to get back on that highway.  I have, however, taken ownership of every single hiccup.  The sanctity of my pledge is again true.

I will look at sentences 5-8, in the next post.

 

Heavenly Flow

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April 21, 2019-

Today brought me close to two faith traditions:  A musical, somewhat relaxed Evangelical Baptist service- which I attended at the invitation of a former co-worker.  I didn’t see her  there, but met up with another former colleague with the Red Cross.  After exchanging pleasantries, I took a seat in the congregation, while he took his place in the choir.  My part was to sing with the rest of those in the congregation, join in greeting those around me, and respond to an occasional call.  I only regret not raising my hand when the pastor asked who believes in the Christ. I do, certainly.  One cannot accept the Message of the Father and discard That of the Son.

At our Baha’i community’s gathering, this afternoon, I joined with about 45 fellows in Faith, to commemorate the first day of Baha’u’llah’s declaring His Mission, even as He and His companions prepared for a long journey overland, from Baghdad to what is now Istanbul.

The message is similar:  None of us is squeaky clean, and God alone can absolve us with Grace.   The sufferings of each Divine Messenger are what free us from our wrongdoings.  Only by acknowledging this, and not wanting to be distant from the Divine, does one progress spiritually.

So, that was my day of spiritual fellowship.  Connection with the Divine, though, is what has eased my path, even when I find myself alone.  In times of uncertainty, as to my course of action, I find my Spirit Guides provide a very clear framework, within which I must make informed choices.

This week, for example, will bring me to Flagstaff, then to the Desert View Tower, at the eastern end of Grand Canyon National Park- honouring the Centenary of that great national entity.  From there, it will be time to honour an old friend, who passed on, last week.  His services will be east of Tuba City, at another lovely locale:  Coal Mine Canyon.  Then, I must return here to Prescott, and look after my own health, with a lab test on Wednesday.   Matters of faith, possible acts of service with the Red Cross, another friend’s birthday party and a presentation by Slow Food-Prescott will fill out the week.

The flow of celestial energy is constant, and bears heeding.

 

 

 

 

 

A Step at a Time

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March 31, 2019-

I made it to Planet Fitness, despite a sense of fatigue after a trip to Phoenix and back, having attended a worthwhile, but somewhat tiring, meeting.  I was glad to have not had to drive, with a competent friend at the wheel instead.

Tonight’s workout came after a twenty-minute catnap.  I feel better, having done the 30-minute express, followed by ten minutes on the hydrobed.  Bittersweet March has thus, in the end, affirmed that there is still quite a bit left in this sexagenarian frame.  I get appreciative glances from ladies, the younger among them knowing, as well as I do, that that is as far as it goes.  It feels nice, regardless.

It is now full-on Spring.  Tomorrow, we will see what practical jokes remain to be played.  Later in the month come Chalk-It-Up, Earth Day, Easter and the Twelve Days of Ridvan, commemorating Baha’u’llah’s Declaration of His Mission.  I will get my annual physical at the VA, sometime during the month, and will visit the Grand Canyon, on Good Friday.

April, as a wise colleague once remarked, cannot be the cruelest month.  Sorry, T.S. Eliot.