Saturday, January 31, 2009

A Nod to our Material World Existence

Amid the spiritual atmosphere of the Atlanta conference I was bemused by all of us Baha'is (myself included) who spent time waiting in the Starbuck's line near the lobby. I'd love to think that all those triple grande lattes enhanced my ability to focus or improved the scent of spiritual fragrance from the friends gathered; but really, it was just coffee... an enjoyable physical attachment that contrasts greatly with the needs of the world in which we live.

The House of Justice didn't say we couldn't have our coffee; but they do want us to make sacrifices. This giving over one's material loves to serve Baha'u'llah could come in many forms. Maybe we aren't ready to give it up but make a pact to do some extra teaching or service work when we drink Starbucks... Something reminiscent of the carbon payments for buying airplane tickets. Or maybe we don't buy the Starbucks and give the money to the Fund. Or maybe we do buy the Starbucks and enjoy it as a material gift but realize that it is something we cannot attach ourselves to. 

I'm not sure where the Starbucks fits into the whole picture but I do know that it wasn't just us in Atlanta with this problem... The Baha'i World News Service posted a picture of the lovely friends in Portland enjoying their boxed lunches together and sipping... What was it??? Starbucks coffee! 

We Americans have such a spiritual destiny to fulfill; but I imagine we'll have to see ourselves as post-modern-get-over-your-starbucks-and-focus-on-what-needs-done-in-the-world before we begin to see this reality. Didn't Shoghi Effendi point out that we will lead the world spiritually only because we've got so far to go that it will be a banner to Baha'u'llah's ability to transform the world? 

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Involving Children in the Process

As Baha’i parents, we often have a lot of information and help when it comes to raising children both as Baha’is and as individuals in a crumbling world order; but what about the children as active Baha’is in a process they will soon be asked to shoulder? 

Children are not some separate entity from our Baha’i lives, not even when teaching. If our kids don’t see us modeling the process, they won’t learn to do it themselves. Think about how much easier it would have been for most of us to start teaching directly had we grown up practicing.

Both challenges #1 and #2 are appropriate for both adults and children alike. If you have the kids memorize and practice the first two lines of Anna’s Presentation then it is available for them at any moment. I love hearing when the kids come home and said they told a teacher or another student about the Faith. It’s so important that they are encouraged to teach and then share their stories! 

There are many other ways to involve children in the teaching process besides just telling people they meet. Children can be invited to take part in home visits and go door-to-door. 

Last summer, we held a teaching project and went door-to-door. My 13-year-old went with an adult and another jr youth as part of the teaching team. The adult knocked on the first ten doors and modeled what to say and how to act and showed the jr youth how to use Anna’s Presentation. Then the jr youth took turns knocking on doors (with the adult by their side) and introducing the Faith. 

Afterwards, my son was so excited! For weeks he would mention how much fun he had teaching and telling people about the Faith. For me, a generally timid sort of person, it was an example of how kids can do things without the fears adults carry. Since that time, both the kids have been door-to-door several times and each time they return filled with a joy and spirit gained only when engaging in genuine service to the Faith. 

Even if you, yourself, have fears, don’t let it be part of your children’s lives. Let go and be confident and bold and be an example to your kids. Even if you’re trembling inside, do it anyway. 

I know, I know… Talk is easy and action takes courage; courage I struggle with every day. I keep praying that God remake me in His Will so that I can help my children to be the shining examples I haven’t been. I want them to be so much better!

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

One Fine Day...

This weekend was amazing. We decided to be different and held our Reflection Meeting on a Friday evening, instead of our usual weekend afternoon time. It was attended by 20 adults and 3 jr youth. Our discussion focused on specific actions and plans that would propel us forward in our 3rd practice cycle. Afterwards, we were in high spirits and excited about the plans we had made. However, that was just the beginning of what is proving to be a spectacular weekend...

Fourteen local adults, three travel teachers, two Board members, and one Counselor gathered on Saturday morning in the clubhouse of the neighborhood where we hold our children's classes. After a Book 6 refresher, we all ate lunch together and then everyone was off!

Regular children's classes were held in the clubhouse and the jr youth were asked to assist the teacher. Teams were formed and some went door-to-door and some went on home visits to the parents of children in the classes. 

Our successes came in many forms, not the least of which was two declarations and two child registrations. We also have a list of individuals who were interested in having more home visits and having their children join the classes. Parents told us how happy they were to have someone spending time with their children teaching them something spiritual. 

Most of all, a new spirit was infused into the community... As the Universal House of Justice said in their Dec 6, 2008 letter, "Bold and determined efforts are being made to share the Message of Baha'u'llah with receptive souls..." How true!

Next challenge... Formulate a plan of consolidation which quickly confirms these new souls through "immediate engagement" in the institute plan. I'll keep you posted...

Monday, January 5, 2009

Reflection Meeting Prep

I'm really excited... we are getting ready for our Reflection Meeting!

Our CIC had an epiphany and suggested that we follow the model of the 41 conferences and study the Oct 20 & Dec 6 letters and then break into smaller community groups to complete pledge sheets. Then, we can come back together in the large group in order to make a three-month master plan. We're on the list of clusters slated to be A-stage by Ridvan 2009 so we've got a lot of work to do!

If you have any suggestions for successful Relection Meetings, I'd love to hear them. We really want to make it exciting and fun and fruitful!

Friday, January 2, 2009

Weekly Challenge #2

I know, I know… This is more like the Week 3 ½ challenge but since it is the second challenge to be issued, I’ll call it Challenge #2 or something like that. Our winter drive up north made it difficult to keep up with my blog but now that we’re back home here in the land of palm trees and receptive souls, I’ll try to get back to regular posting. 

Reminder: Challenge #1 was to memorize the first two lines of Anna’s Presentation and start to pray regularly to be led to receptive souls. 

If you have managed to win the goals of the first challenge, now is definitely not the time to rest! Challenge #2 is about using those two lines in Anna’s to speak forthrightly with those people you meet. Praying to be led to receptive souls is one thing but to actively open our mouths and speak out is another even more exigent endeavor. 

The Universal House of Justice said in its Ridv├ín 2008 message, “In their presentation of the message of Baha’u’llah and the exposition of its verities, they have taken to heart the words of Shoghi Effendi that they must neither “hesitate” nor “falter”, neither “overstress” nor “whittle down” the truth which they champion.”

Therefore, the challenge I am laying before myself, and anyone else who cares to join me, is to actually open my mouth and use those two lines of Anna’s that I just memorized. There is no better way to make sure that we are not whittling down or faltering in our mention of the Faith of Baha’u’llah. 

So, pray and have courage and make a point to use the words you now have at the tip of your tongue. And don’t forget to let my know how you’re doing!