February 26, 2013

celebrating Ayyam-i-Ha

the days of Ha -- Ayyam-i-Ha -- are upon us and our family has prepared by making decorations, thinking of ways to be of service in our neighborhood, and creating joyful activities to share as a family in the afternoons and evenings when our children are home from school.

last night when the sun set, it was time to initiate the festivities.  our youngest son lit 2 candles and we asked the children to hide in the pantry while my husband hid the gifts around the house.  before finding the gifts, he read a special rhyme to each of them, giving them a clue where the gift was hidden.  he times them on a stopwatch and makes it a game so that at the end of 4 nights, the child with the fastest time gets to be the first to choose one of three balloons which have different amounts of money hidden inside.

after opening the simple gifts each night, we do a fun activity together and eat delicious homemade cookies and cakes together.  last night the fun activity was dancing together and making it like a party with the lights out (except for the blinking Christmas lights that we use only during Ayyam-i-Ha).  the other activities we have planned are a treasure hunt, a hand-painting poster, watching a movie together and eating dinner at a restaurant.

each day, the children will get to write down on a 9-pointed star a service they performed for someone.  the only requirement is doing it with joy.  at the end of Ayyam-i-Ha we will read them out loud and celebrate a great sense of purposefulness and reward for doing good by helping others, especially those who are poor and needy.

while the children are at school, i have planned a gathering with a group of mothers in my neighborhood to bring them baked sweets and sobolo (a local sweet drink) while we hang out together.  all of them are struggling to survive and working very hard to support their families and raise their children.  it is this group of women with whom i will be hosting a gathering in our home for discussing the significance of mothers in the sight of God and their role in the spiritual education of their children.  i am looking forward to this next month.

another way for me to be of service this year is to buy Ghanaian meals prepared on the roadside and distribute them to various people i know who are struggling for their survival and whose lives are full of needs.  when visiting them, i will bring some of the cookies we made as well.

in a relatively short time in our new neighborhood, by the grace of God, i have felt able to connect with almost everyone i've met.  it is this spot on earth where God intended me to live at this time in my life, so i make every effort possible to be a channel of His love through being genuinely kind, caring, generous and joyful.  it feels like a blessing to have met these souls, as if they are a gift from God from whom my heart gets to experience great joy.  for me, Ayyam-i-Ha are the days of extending my heart to as many souls as i can with whom i have had the bounty of meeting, especially those whose lives experience such material hardships..

below are the descriptions of Ayyam-i-Ha in the Baha'i Writings:

  • Days outside of time’ festival reveres eternal essence of God.
  • From sunset Feb. 25 to sunset March 1, Baha’is will be exchanging gifts, getting together with friends and family, and engaging in acts of charity – activities that characterize the festival of Ayyam-i-Ha.
  • The festival comes toward the end of the Baha’i year, which is divided into 19 months of 19 days each. These “intercalary” days, between the 18th and 19th months of the Baha’i calendar, are necessary to align the calendar with the 365-day Gregorian solar calendar.
  •  Ayyam-i-Ha means “Days of Ha.” “Ha” has several meanings in Arabic, including reference to God or the “Essence of God.” Baha’is celebrate the sacred days of Ayyam-i-Ha through acts of love, fellowship, unity, charity and goodwill.
our family's hands
  • The intercalary days of Ayyami-i-Ha “stand apart from the ordinary cycle of weeks and months and the human measure of time,”. “Thus Ayyam-i-Ha can be thought of as days outside of time, days that symbolize eternity, infinity and the mystery and unknowable Essence of God Himself.”
  • Baha’u’llah has said of Ayyam-i-Ha: “It behoveth the people of Baha, throughout these days, to provide good cheer for themselves, their kindred and, beyond them, the poor and needy, and with joy and exultation to hail and glorify their Lord, to sing His praise and magnify His Name.”
  •  Appropriately, Ayyam-i-Ha spiritually sets the stage for the annual Baha’i Fast, which goes from March 2 to March 20. Naw-Ruz, the Baha’i new year, begins on March 21, the first day of spring. 

February 22, 2013

Naw Ruz card exchange

thanks to All Done Monkey who initiated a Baha'i New Year card exchange, our 3 children were happy to make cards for kids their age who live in different parts of the world (Tonga, Australia and the US). 

everyone in the exchange makes a card, adds some kind of flower to it, even a photo of themselves if they like, and sends it to the address organized by All Done Monkey.  we don't have a printer for personal photos so we decided to add a special cared that has the Baha'i ringstone symbol on it as an added gift.

since we live in Ghana, we had to make sure that we made the cards well ahead of time so that by the time they are taken to a post office and mailed, they will arrive before March 21st, the Baha'i new year.
made by our 9 year old, with flowers from the garden
made by our 14 year old
Ayana pressed the bouganvillea and then covered them with contact paper

a medley of styles and ideas flourished amongst their various ages & our simple materials

what a great way to begin preparing for Naw Ruz with other Baha'i children around the world!  the creative process and gift-giving idea sparked our children's interest to wonder what they will receive, and from where and who it will come, in the weeks ahead.

February 20, 2013

"..life is like the roots of a plant.."

The life of man as an individual is in two parts, the roots and the branches.
The roots are our life in this world – difficult;
the branches are our life after death, filled with sunshine, leaves, flowers, fruits.
The harder this life is, the better the tree.
Not only is heaven the world of God, but this world is also a world of God.
Today is more important than tomorrow.
All the worlds are circling around this world.
Bahá’u’lláh says this world is the most important in the life of man.
This life is like the roots of a plant, not its fruit.  That is in the future.
Your good deeds and good actions will ascend to the Kingdom of God.
Under the ground there is no capacity for fruit.
The next world is unlimited, and you will see the results of your deeds.
In this life you act, in the next you reap the harvest.
The harder you work, the bigger the tree, the larger the harvest of the fruit.
The root cannot see it.

(Dr. Muhájir in Guam, December 1975, quoted in Dr. Muhájir Hand of the Cause, Knight of Bahá’u’lláh, by Iran Furútan Muhájir, pp.382-384)

Andy Grammer singing 'Where there is love'

"Show love to all; 'Love is the breath of the Holy Spirit in the heart of Man'."

~ Abdu'l-Baha, Paris Talks, p. 30 

i share this song in the spirit of One Love.  the words are simple and yet encompass the limitless ocean in which we can experience life when we have Love in our hearts.  our essential purpose in this life is to love God, to have our hearts so full of love for our Creator that we have no room for worshiping ourselves.

as they sing, 'where there is love, nothing is too much trouble, and there is always time', i am reminded that love has the power to cast beams of light into the world and touch souls everywhere, all the time.  may this song bring a smile to your face as you arise to bring your love to others, each and every moment of your day.

February 16, 2013

no deed greater than helping the poor

"No deed of man is greater before God than helping the poor."

 (Abdu'l-Baha, Foundations of World Unity, p. 36)

i have been listening to Tom Price's talks about recreating our lives in the image of Abdu'l-Baha.  one of the ways in which we can do this is through service to humanity, i.e., being full of servitude to the human race.  he explains that there are a few groups of people who Abdu'l-Baha loved the most, all of whom were considered very important people in His eyes.  one of these groups of people are the poor.

Abdu'l-Baha showed unconditional, constant and all-embracing love to the poor.  He saw in their souls a nearness to God, as their hearts were attached to the love of God rather than themselves and the worldly things of life.   listening to Tom Price's talks and how he draws upon the Revelation of Baha'u'llah in such a profound yet simple manner attracts my heart closer to the true spirit in which to live my life in servitude, especially to the poor with whom i find my heart naturally attracted.

if each of us could discover the Beauty of God in every soul, especially the poor who are most cherished in the sight of God, the world would begin to make a shift away from self-centeredness toward selfless servitude to our fellow man.  each of us, who have something to share -- whether it be our time, our knowledge, our resources, our heartfelt ear to listen, or our philanthropy -- would contribute to narrowing the gap between the extremes of wealth and poverty.  each of us can be like a drop that creates a river of life to the advancement of a spiritual civilization in which every single person is cared and loved as a member of one's family.

the following Selections from the Baha'i Writings offer the remedy by which each of us can begin to eliminate the extremes of wealth and poverty.  these words are my daily reflection and impetus for how i arise to serve the beloved people of God around me each day:

 "Each one of you must have great consideration for the poor and render them assistance. Organize in an effort to help them and prevent increase of poverty. The greatest means for prevention is that whereby the laws of the community will be so framed and enacted that it will not be possible for a few to be millionaires and many destitute. One of Bahá'u'lláh's teachings is the adjustment of means of livelihood in human society. Under this adjustment there can be no extremes in human conditions as regards wealth and sustenance."

"Flee not from the face of the poor that lieth in the dust, nay rather befriend him and suffer him to recount the tale of the woes with which God's inscrutable Decree hath caused him to be afflicted. By the righteousness of God! Whilst ye consort with him, the Concourse on high will be looking upon you, will be interceding for you, will be extolling your names and glorifying your action."

"Blessed are the learned that pride not themselves on their attainments; and well is it with the righteous that mock not the sinful, but rather conceal their misdeeds, so that their own shortcomings may remain veiled to men's eyes."

"What could be better before God than thinking of the poor? For the poor are beloved by our heavenly Father. When His Holiness Christ came upon the earth those who believed in him and followed him were the poor and lowly, showing the poor were near to God."

"..sharing is a personally chosen righteous act: that is, the rich should extend assistance to the poor, they should expend their substance for the poor, but of their own free will, and not because the poor have gained this end by force. For the harvest of force is turmoil and the ruin of the social order. On the other hand voluntary sharing, the freely-chosen expending of one's substance, leadeth to society's comfort and peace. It lighteth up the world; it bestoweth honor upon humankind."

"The rich must give of their abundance, they must soften their hearts and cultivate a compassionate intelligence, taking thought for those sad ones who are suffering from lack of the very necessities of life.  There must be special laws made, dealing with these extremes of riches and of want.  The members of the government should consider the laws of God when they are framing plans for the ruling of the people.  The general rights of mankind must be guarded and preserved."

to these ends i am striving, in my heart, and the more i am in tune with the needs of others, as well as striving to help them, i find that my heart finds greater joy and contentment.  the more i am self-absorbed, the less happy i become.  the secret of discovering happiness for oneself is by forgetting oneself and enabling one's mind to be full of how to help alleviate the suffering of others.. 

February 10, 2013

95 Youth Conferences

"Three great fields of service lie open before young Bahá'ís, in which they will simultaneously be remaking the character of human society and preparing themselves for the work they can undertake later in their lives.

"First, the foundation of all their other accomplishments, is their study of the teachings, the spiritualization of their lives, and the forming of their characters in accordance with the standards of Bahá'u'lláh. As the moral standards of the people around us collapse and decay, whether of the centuries civilizations of the East, the more recent cultures of Christendom and Islam, or of the rapidly changing tribal societies of the world, the Bahá'ís must increasingly stand out as pillars of righteousness and forbearance. The life of a Bahá'í will be characterized by truthfulness and decency; he will walk uprightly among his fellowmen, dependent upon none save God, yet linked by bonds of love and brotherhood with all mankind; he will be entirely detached from the loose standards, the decadent theories, the frenetic experimentation, the desperation of present-day society, will look upon his neighbors with a bright and friendly face, and be a beacon light and a haven for all those who would emulate his strength of character and assurance of soul.

"The second field of service, which is linked intimately with the first, is teaching the Faith, particularly to their fellow youth, among whom are some of the most open and seeking minds in the world. Not yet having acquired all the responsibilities of a family or a long-established home and job, youth can the more easily choose where they will live and study or work. In the world at large young people travel hither and thither seeking amusement, education, and experiences. Bahá'í youth, bearing the incomparable treasure of the Word of God for this Day, can harness this mobility into service for mankind and can choose their places of residence, their areas of travel, and their types of work with the goal in mind of how they can best serve the Faith.

"The third field of service is the preparation by youth for their later years. It is the obligation of a Bahá'í to educate his children; likewise it is the duty of the children to acquire knowledge of the arts and sciences and to learn a trade or a profession whereby they, in turn, can earn their living and support their families. This, for a Bahá'í youth, is in itself a service to God, a service, moreover, which can be combined with teaching the Faith and often with pioneering. The Bahá'í community will need men and women of many skills and qualifications; for, as it grows in size the sphere of its activities in the life of society will increase and diversify. Let Bahá'í youth, therefore, consider the best ways in which they can ug and develop their native abilities for the service of mankind and the Cause of God, whether this be as farmers, teachers, doctors, artisans, musicians, or any one of the multitude of livelihoods that are open to them."

    (The Universal House of Justice, Wellspring of Guidance, Messages 1963-1968, p. 94)