December 08, 2011

fireside..for the young at heart

a week ago i explained to some of the kids that have been coming for classes and tutoring that we are hosting a meeting to discuss the Baha'i Faith.  i told them we call it a fireside and that it's not a class, study session or Devotional gathering.  they came with eagerness and joy to my wonderful surprise.  since no one else showed up, it was very informal and more like a deepening, explaining the spiritual nature of our soul and the meaning of one of the Hidden Words:

Hear no evil, and see no evil, abase not thyself, neither sigh and weep. Speak no evil, that thou mayest not hear it spoken unto thee, and magnify not the faults of others that thine own faults may not appear great; and wish not the abasement of anyone, that thine own abasement be not exposed. Live then the days of thy life, that are less than a fleeting moment, with thy mind stainless, thy heart unsullied, thy thoughts pure, and thy nature sanctified, so that, free and content, thou mayest put away this mortal frame, and repair unto the mystic paradise and abide in the eternal kingdom for evermore.

  (Baha'u'llah, The Persian Hidden Words)
this simple deepening was met with quiet, concentrated faces.  i am never sure whether the spirit of what i'm saying is understood or received as meaningful or important to others.  i rely on being a hollow reed whose purpose is to serve, but i do wonder afterward what the soul was thinking and feeling in their silence.  this simple fireside was simply perfect because when they left there was joy and radiance in their faces. :)

since last week's fireside, we have shared with them a children's class, a jr. youth group session, Devotions, Sunday night storytelling & Devotions, studying together for exams, dinner & Devotions, and another Devotions (per their request!).  last night, while preparing for the fireside, i was anticipating that they would come but wasn't certain because i can't predict anything -- there are always factors that i will never know about which contribute to the whether or not i will see the kids or not.

i had invited some Baha'i youth for dinner with the hope that they would convey the spirit of the Baha'i Faith in addition to how i have been trying.  we enjoyed a nice dinner together for awhile before the fireside was set to begin.  by 7:15, 15 minutes before it was set to begin, we heard loud sounds outside -- typically this indicates that our friends are calling for us.  indeed, ayana looked out her bedroom window and they communicated with her that they tried to come but the guards wouldn't let them in.  my first reaction was, 'Yay! they are coming!'  my second reaction was that i need to resolve with the guards that they must come ask me first before turning anyone away.  with great delight i found 9 of them running to the gate to greet me.  they were so happy!  after washing their feet outside in the small rinsing area on the side of the house -- which is a post in and of itself! -- they came and sat down.  we were waiting for the boys who live in a different area, as well as any adults who may come as well.  we decided to play 'whisper telephone' -- what a great ice-breaker!  especially with people whose mother tongues are different!  after much laughter, the other kids came and our living room was full of 18 souls. :)

we opened with prayer.  with my eyes closed i cherished hearing them recite the holy words from the Baha'i Writings.  i love all their different voices and accents.  i love how the children have memorized the Selections from classes.  i love how they are striving with courage to read english when it's not always easy.  and it's very sweet to hear them sing along with a song that is now in their hearts.

the fireside itself was unique.  without adults present (except myself!), the youth and kids were able to be serious but informal.  sometimes it was a little chaotic with trying to help them not giggle and comment while someone was talking.  otherwise, it was full of precious moments of little hands being raised to offer their thoughts.  the youth gave a short presentation with practical examples of how one lives as a Baha'i.  this evoked some responses for how they live their lives.

the youth then opened up the discussion by asking them what they have learned about the Faith as a result of the classes.  this is the part of the evening where i couldn't stop smiling.  these are a few of the comments:

..'the Baha’i Faith is awesome’ 
..'be kind & be loving'  
..‘let your eye be chaste..’ 
..'let your hand be faithful'
..'and your heart enlightened'
..'be truthful'
..'show respect'
..'don't make fun of others'
..'no striking others'
..'Baha'u'llah was loving and kind'
..'do not steal'
..'don't talk bad about others when they are not there'
these and other comments created a lively discussion.  it was amazing how the jr. youth conveyed so much of what they had learned from their last session.  they were quietly attentive during the explanation of the quotes to memorize without wanting to say anything in response.  but i can see that it stuck with them, and that they are reflecting on it.  it is the power of the holy spirit in the Word of God that mysteriously affects the soul.  we recite and pray.  we listen to God's Word and we supplicate to Him using His Word.  it is a process of listening and beseeching, then arising to live one's life in accordance with the Divine Will.  my hope is that through the guidance and counsel in the Writings, their lives will begin to transform into noble, dignified, spiritual realities.  this is the purpose of spiritual education..

the discussion gave way to singing, marching, drumming and an array of musical instruments being played. after a refreshment, we prayed together again and gradually closed the evening with loving goodbyes.  no photos for this post; dash had the camera with him in london at the time..

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