Sunday, October 4, 2009

Same conversations, different accents...

I am back. Finally.

It has been more than three months since I have had the wherewithal to muster the will to blog. In this time, we have packed up the house in Florida, spent a month in Kansas/Iowa, and moved with two kids, two dogs and twelve bags to Poland. We have been here eight weeks now and are adjusting reasonably well. (Despite the fact that our things are all being stored somewhere in Miami waiting to be shipped pending the approval of my husband's work visa.)

Truly, the details of our material existence here are nothing compared to how interesting and exciting are the spiritual aspects of being in Poland. What I find most amazing is how the conversations here are really the same conversations we were having back in Florida and were really the same conversations we were having in Kansas... The House of Justice has focused the Baha'i world so effectively around the aims of the Plans and the processes of the Institutes, that really the only thing that is appreciably different is the accents of the individuals having the conversations.

I realize that this is a gross over-simplification but it is true. Our concerns, our trials and our victories are common regardless of our locality... Baha'is everywhere worry about being effective, the Counselors everywhere encourage and set the bar very high, the friends everywhere work to fill out the Cluster Growth Profile (keeping track of the numbers), and everyone wonders if they are praying enough, teaching enough, and doing the bidding of the House of Justice.

Today, as we reflected on the successes and outcomes of the weekend's expansion phase, I had to smile to myself, laugh a little and wonder at the marvel that is the Baha'i world. It really is a small planet and Baha'u'llah has given each of us, no matter where we reside, the tools to conquer the hearts of those that reside thereon.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Accumulating Experience

In rereading the May 17, 2009 letter from the Universal House of Justice regarding the 19-Day Feast, I am fascinated how much it says about our community, even beyond the celebration of Feast. We are growing... both in size and capacity.

The May 17 letter notes a growing dynamism as one of the salient features of our worldwide community. The dictionary defines dynamism as great energy, force, or power. Our Baha'i community has great energy, it has force, and it has power! The individual, the community, and the institutions are all coming together to demonstrate this power to ourselves as well as the greater community.

One of the outcomes of our dynamic, powerful community is that individuals will want to attend Baha'i Feast. It is natural that our community of interest will be drawn to our gatherings as people flee from the pain and sorrow of the world. The Baha'is have something to offer and people will reach for it as moths to a flame.

Of course, this means that we will occasionally find that seekers will show up at Feast wishing to attend even when they have not been invited. Beautifully, the Universal House of Justice has helped us understand how we are to deal with these situations. As Baha'is are to have an outward-looking vision, we would naturally not wish to be rude. Therefore, the new guidance indicates that we can hold feast almost as usual keeping in mind the need for confidentiality and restraint.

Note: We should guard against taking this new guidance to mean we can invite seekers to our Feasts. However much we may wish to share our Faith enthusiastically with interested individuals, it would be a mistake to forget that Feast was an institution created for the Baha'is themselves and respecting this directive is important. Nonetheless, should someone show up at Feast who is not a Baha'i, we are free to include them in Feast and adhere to the standard format (with discretion given to the Local Spiritual Assemblies to decide how much to include).

Part of what I love about being a Baha'i is the on-going, ever-dynamic understanding of the Faith that grows along with the community. The Universal House of Justice states, The continued expansion of the Bahá’í community in the years to come will surely give rise to a range of challenges that will affect how the devotional, administrative, and social aspects of the Nineteen Day Feast are conducted in diverse localities.

Further, Responsibility for addressing these challenges will fall, in the first instance, on Local Spiritual Assemblies. Theirs is the duty to remain alert to conditions in their communities, to consult with the friends, to respond thoughtfully to a multiplicity of needs and circumstances, and to remain flexible without compromising fundamental principles.

Remaining flexible without compromising fundamental principles is a hallmark of our Faith. This is the accumulating experience that allows us to grow and change and yet never waver in our principles. This is our energy, our force, and our power... This is what makes us dynamic... This is what makes us Baha'is.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Homefront Pioneer Needed in Florida!

While mulling over the fact that we will have to rent and not sell our home when we move to Poland this summer, a copy of Reflections on Growth, number 22, came to my attention like one of those beacons that has attended every moment surrounding our pioneering opportunity.

I was sorting through some paperwork and there it was - the edition titled, Homefront Pioneers - Settling in "Clusters That are the Focus of Systematic Attention." As our Auxiliary Board member keeps reminding us, we have to find our replacements (and my replacement as ATC secretary).

How about a homefront pioneer?

Two quotes in particular from the Universal House of Justice stand out...
...equally important will be the support lent to a cluster through an influx of pioneers
; and
Let those souls able to join their co-workers in the forefront of activity hesitate not a moment longer.

My husband is still negotiating with his company but if we can swing it, we are thinking maybe we could rent our home for a bargain-basement price to a Baha'i couple who would love to move to Florida but cannot swing it without a housing deal. This would allow us to have the house cared for as well as supply much needed human resources to this new A-status cluster.

Ft Myers has been hit hard by the economic crisis but there are still jobs to be had and beaches to be loved. There are several education opportunities in the area, the biggest being Florida Gulf Coast University, which is just around the corner from our home. The Baha'i community is stalwart and loving and wanting for additional help as it pursues activities in line with the Plan.

Lee Cluster needs help... Anyone interested??? ...hesitate not a moment longer...

Saturday, June 6, 2009

More on our move to Poland

I have been thinking about my previous post and I want to add a little background... Not only are we being given the blessing of pioneering but if anyone had asked me to name the one country that I would love to pioneer too, Poland would have been number one. What I cannot reconcile is how we could be even doubly blessed!

I was in Poland twice way back when during my college years. Once, in 1991, I traveled to Poland after a month in the Soviet Union. Back then, the German National Assembly sent us in to the Soviet Union with a box of Baha'i books tucked carefully into our things so as to hopefully escape detection. I cannot remember how I ended up in Poland afterwards (and then detoured to Romania) but what I remember is my time spent with an inspirational group of youth teaching in Wroclaw. It was such a wonderful, learning time for me. My second visit to Poland (1992) was for three months travel teaching in Poznan (with short trips to Zielona Gora and Torun). Again, it was a time that was nothing short of amazing.

Now flash forward 17 years, a husband, two kids and much life later I, along with my amazing family, are headed back to Poland. Again, I have to say that I am afraid of not living up to the responsibility I feel that comes with this blessing.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

We are going pioneering... to Poland!

For some, this will be the first you have heard about our family's impending adventure and I apologize if it comes as a shock... Hopefully, I have personally reached those for whom this matters most and for everyone else I am just so excited and shocked that I want to scream it to the world... We are moving to Poland!

Shoghi Effendi said, "The Work of the Pioneer is the Most Important Task an Individual can Perform; Its Blessings are Great."* Yikes! What are the chances we can live up to the weightiness of the work of the pioneer?

In a few days, Solomon and I will celebrate our 16th wedding anniversary. Over the course of these years, we have tried to pioneer and at times we have come close but it had not yet worked out. We moved to Florida 2 1/2 years ago because of Solomon's job. It has been a hard couple years for us, the kids most especially; but we have learned so much about IPG's and the work at the cluster level. I can now see how this time in Florida has been a training ground for pioneering.

As a matter of fact, I was just resigning myself to life in Florida when Solomon called me up during Fast and said, "Did you ever have one of those moments when you feel like your life is going to change? You know... like when we decided to get married..."

Yes... Life is changing for us but it is as exciting as it is daunting. The kids are thrilled and the dogs ought really not know the difference as long as they are still with us (but the cold will be biting for our little, thin-haired one).

God willing, in two months we will be on a plane headed to Warsaw. I can hardly believe that Baha'u'llah has blessed us with this opportunity and I only hope that I can even begin to live up to the honor.

*(Compilations, Lights of Guidance, p. 578)

Sunday, May 10, 2009

The Ridvan Cake

(NOTE: I wrote this post during Ridvan and only now realized I had never published it!)

I thought I would share a photo of the cake my son made for our Ridvan celebration.

What I love about this cake is not only was it made by
my son, but it took a lot of effort. Every year I ponder the idea that Ridvan is the King of Festivals or the Most Great Festival. It seems rather self-explanatory to me!

Truly, as the Baha'i world evolves, we will figure out how to make Ridvan feel more important, more joyous and more momentous than everything else we do. It is not that the other celebrations are not important, joyous or momentous but we have to remember that Ridvan is about the very founding of our Faith. It is a celebration of our beginning... It is a celebration of the beginning of the new spiritual journey of the entire world... It is a celebration of the birth of a New Era that signals the coming maturity of a planet that has struggled for millions of years to attain this day without night... How could we relegate this time to something we merely squeeze into the craziness of our lives?

I throw these thoughts out there not because I feel like our family is living up to the standard I feel we should; but solely as food-for-thought. It is just something to ponder at this joyous time. Maybe next year we'll do it just a little bit better... and the year after that... and the year after that...

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Prayer Campaign

On the eve of our cluster's launch to A-stage status, I am pondering how to sufficiently explain the bounty and blessings of a community-wide prayer campaign.

I have put together a bookmark to give the friends at the Reflection Meeting. On one side, I've put the chosen prayer (Teaching Prayer for the Southern States). On the other side, I want to put a blurb about the value of prayer campaigns. Here is where I'm falling down. In my head I understand what prayer campaigns can bring to a community but when it comes to writing it down, I can't seem to put my thoughts together.

What I came up with I largely "borrowed" from another blog dedicated to an A-status cluster's activities. I loved what it said about the nature of a cluster-wide prayer campaign: "Offering ardent daily prayers... for receptive souls in the cluster and for Baha'i teachers to arise courageously to directly teach the Faith."

I love the idea of "offering ardent prayers." I wonder if all our prayers were "ardent," would we be that much more successful in our endeavors?