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(US, MA, 10 September)
In Ruhi book 1 we read, “Truthfulness is the foundation of all human virtues.” Which virtues is this believer drawing on in striving to serve the Cause?
When we first venture forth to teach the Faith to others, it can seem like a daunting prospect. And this is precisely why this story from an individual in Boston (A-stage cluster) is particularly touching. The fears expressed with humor and frankness are surely shared by many of us—and yet this is not the end of the story. Instead it is about feeling the fear, and yet acting anyway, of the power of prayer, of reliance on God, on the unity created by collective effort, and the transformation that results from service.
I don’t know how this all happened. And yet, I do. Really, what choice do we have? Once you recognize Bahá’u’lláh you are committed to a path of self destruction, the lower self, of course.
I can’t say I had a passion for teaching or even a desire to have a passion for teaching. Mostly, I have a desire to be obedient to God’s Will. . . .
So when we became an “A” cluster, I was there. When we started our first intensive program of growth, I was there. When my family’s neighborhood was identified as a receptive community, I was there. And when they selected our home as the meeting place for our teaching effort, I was there . . . looking for every and any excuse possible to flee. I was feeling sick. I was feeling exhausted. I’m sure I was needed elsewhere. Anywhere frankly. I settled on the notion that I could cook for everybody. I would keep the home fires burning as others ventured out into the neighborhood. But alas I was given a street to visit and a buddy to go with. I couldn’t jump ship but maybe God would strike me dead. I was hoping.
In the days before I would wake up in the morning thinking of plausible excuses to not be in my own home on Saturday.
With fear in my heart and total reliance on God the dreaded day began. People would be in my house, eating my food for the sole purpose of spreading the Word of God to my neighbors.
Like a mantra I kept thinking, I can’t do this. And I was right. I couldn’t. But it turned out I could do this. I could put one foot in front of the other and move forward.
Soon the happy Bahá’ís arrived. We reviewed our tasks. Acknowledged our assigned buddies. And then we prayed. Oh boy did we pray. These were the most ardent felt, sincere prayers I had ever been a part of. Love, submission, obedience was bending us into conformity with His Will.
My community really loves to pray but these prayers, these sweet sincere prayers spoken, chanted and sung went on and on. I hoped they would never end. After days of fear, I finally felt safe. But the prayers did end. And off we went.
I had a plan, I had a buddy and I had God. My feet kept moving up and down staircases, and onto porches. And at the end of they day we returned to our safe haven with stories of joy. Whether we encountered an empty home, a rejection, a listening ear, a hospitable coffee, or a person who declared their belief, everything was a joy and a success. We owned each others stories and experiences. We were one.
That was two teaching efforts ago. That was a lifetime ago, when I was dead and Bahá’u’lláh raised me up and I was able to share His message.
Much love and still scared but committed,
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Walkway in the courtyard of the Mansion of Mazra‘ih
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Look ye not upon the present, fix your gaze upon the times to come. In the beginning, how small is the seed, yet in the end it is a mighty tree. Look ye not upon the seed, look ye upon the tree, and its blossoms, and its leaves and its fruits. Consider the days of Christ, when none but a small band followed Him; then observe what a mighty tree that seed became, behold ye its fruitage. And now shall come to pass even greater things than these, for this is the summons of the Lord of Hosts, this is the trumpet-call of the living Lord, this is the anthem of world peace, this is the standard of righteousness and trust and understanding raised up among all the variegated peoples of the globe; this is the splendour of the Sun of Truth, this is the holiness of the spirit of God Himself.
– ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, SWAB, p. 82
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(Excerpted and adapted from the teaching blog, http://teaching.bahai.us/2008/09/when-we-first-venture-forth-to-teach.html ) (Image reproduced with permission of the Bahá’í International Community)
(Northern Ireland, 1 September)
Here is a discerning reflection about the vital role that teaching the Faith plays in the spiritual growth process of a believer, brought to you by the Bahá’í Council for Northern Ireland:
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As Bahá’ís we are expected to participate fully and appropriately in the world we live in. This has not always been the case with previous religions. Yet living in this world can be like a slow drip of negativity to our soul. The more we involve ourselves in living the more erosion it can cause to our spiritual being. We have to learn to balance the worldly and the spiritual and if we are not careful we can spend our time swinging from worldly concerns to spiritual highs. The leaven to this way of being is teaching: by its nature teaching demands socialisation with others around us while the subject taught demands the integration of spiritual insight into everyday life. Teaching then becomes the shield for our souls in a troubled world.
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A Bahá’í teaching a scripture class at a public school in Australia
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O ye servants of the Blessed Beauty!… It is clear that in this day, confirmations from the unseen world are encompassing all those who deliver the divine Message. Should the work of teaching lapse, these confirmations would be entirely cut off, since it is impossible for the loved ones of God to receive assistance unless they teach.
– ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, SWA 264-5, no. 209
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(Emphasis added. Excerpted from CommuNIqué – Newsletter of the Bahá’í Community in Northern Ireland, 1 September 2008, http://www.btinternet.com/~iain.s.palin/bc4ni/comm/council.htm) (Image reproduced with permission of the Bahá’í International Community)
New believer: “I tell them who Baha’u’llah is”
(US, DC, 17 May)
Here is a prime example of the practice and outcome of consolidation reported about a new believer that truly speaks for itself:
C__ embraced the Faith during the expansion phase, and at the same time enrolled her young son. Right away she was invited to begin to study. Within a week of accepting Baha’u’llah, she had been visited twice and was studying Book 1 (Reflections on the Life of the Spirit), and has been doing so regularly since then. She is now in the middle of the second unit of the book, and understands that this is a sequence of courses, and she is excited about moving through the sequence and carrying out the practices.
When she completed the first unit, the tutors (who also were the teachers who presented Anna’s presentation to her during the expansion) gave her a gift of the Hidden Words. She was thrilled with the book, holding it carefully in her hands, saying how it is “so beautiful on the cover and what’s inside”. She understood that the practice of the first unit was to read from this book or from some of the Baha’i writings every morning and evening. And when she came the next week to study again (and join her tutors for dinner at their home), she had obviously gone beyond her personal reading and had begun to share the Writings with others.’
Over dinner, we asked her if she might want to share some thoughts with the cluster about her experience over the past weeks. She talked about how during the last week “friends have asked about Baha’u’llah, and I tell them who Baha’u’llah is. I have shared prayers with friends and co-workers. One friend commented how nice the Hidden Words are. One of my friends had a difficult day and had a problem, a test, with another coworker and I shared with her ‘when a thought of war comes, replace it with a stronger thought of peace’ and my friend really liked that.”
She also talked about how she is using the Baha’i Writings now rather than making up her own prayers. She said, “I’ve always been in the habit of saying my own prayers, short prayers that I make up, now I am beginning to develop the habit of saying these prayers from Baha’u’llah.”
She has begun to teach the Faith – arising immediately to share with others the Message she has embraced. She told us, “I’ve told several peple about the Bahai Faith and people seemed interested.” Also she said that some family members have asked, “Who is Baha’u’ll’ah, who is this person?”, showing a little bit of reluctance about the “new religion” she had accepted and begun to promote. She said that when they spoke to her like that, she told them that, “The Baha’i Faith is about love, it’s about unity, it’s about the oneness of all religions.” And with this response “…they calm down, they even begin to get interested.” She has a plan to share Anna’s presentation with one person who has expressed interest, and, together with her tutors, is thinking about other people she can present the Faith to during the next few weeks.
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The most important thing is to polish the mirrors of hearts in order that they may become illumined and receptive of the divine light. One heart may possess the capacity of the polished mirror; another be covered and obscured by the dust and dross of this world… Therefore our duty lies in seeking to polish the mirrors of our hearts in order that we shall become reflectors of that light and recipients of the divine bounties which may be fully revealed through them.
– ‘Abdu’l-Bahá BWF 218
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(Report from the “A” stage Washington DC cluster) (http://teaching.bahai.us/2008/05/following-stories-from-atc-of.html)(Image reproduced with permission of the Bahá’í International Community)