September 22, 2013

Jo'berg, South Africa -- Youth Conference

  these songs depict the spirit of oneness, true joy and universal brotherhood.  this is the Baha'i Faith offering humanity love, nobility of purpose and the light of unity in diversity..

Westgate attack

people coming together as one
the helicopters continue to fly above our home.  it's been 27 hours since the Westgate mall was attacked.  we live a couple of miles from the mall.  we were there that morning. 

we found our grocery receipt from that day -- it reads 12:03pm.  the gunmen were probably in the upper parking lot by that time.  shots were reported soon after we left.  we usually shop there on Saturday afternoons..but not yesterday.  by the grace of God and His Will we were inspired to leave our home earlier to avoid the crowds and have most of the day at home to unpack our shipment which had just arrived on Friday.

we keep pondering what would have happened if we were there..

"There has been a revival of religious fanaticism in all parts of the globe, and among people of varied faiths. It is a truly worldwide phenomenon and, in our view, a deeply disturbing one, for religious fanaticism breeds hatred and violence. We need not look far to find numerous examples in the world today of the civil strife, terror and human suffering that religious fanaticism has wreaked upon religious communities and entire nations. Its pernicious influence can be found at the root of all too many of the wars, conflicts and other ills undermining peace in the world, including the problem of terrorism.

"Fanaticism represents a perversion of religion and is directly contrary to the humane teachings brought by the Founders of all the great religions of the world. We believe that the purpose of every religion has been to promote unity among all the peoples of the world, and to outlaw war and violence in human affairs. All the major religions have taught the "Golden Rule." The violence and disruption associated with religious fanaticism testifies to its spiritual emptiness. Fanaticism destroys the very foundations of human solidarity by dividing the world into contending factions, each believing itself to be superior to others and to have an exclusive claim on religious truth. These actions and attitudes negate the very purpose of religion."

~ Baha'i International Community, 1987 Mar 03, Eliminating Religious Intolerance
"From the seed of reality, religion has grown into a tree which has put forth leaves and branches, blossoms and fruit. After a time this tree has fallen into a condition of decay. The leaves and blossoms have withered and perished; the tree has become stricken and fruitless. It is not reasonable that man should hold to the old tree, claiming that its life forces are undiminished, its fruit unequaled, its existence eternal.

The seed of reality must be sown again in human hearts in order that a new tree may grow therefrom and new divine fruits refresh the world. By this means the nations and peoples now divergent in religion will be brought into unity, imitations will be forsaken and a universal brotherhood in the reality itself will be established. Warfare and strife will cease among mankind; all will be reconciled as servants of God. For all are sheltered beneath the tree of His providence and mercy.

God is kind to all; He is the giver of bounty to all alike, even as His Holiness Jesus Christ has declared that God "sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust"; that is to say, the mercy of God is universal. All humanity is under the protection of His love and favor, and unto all He has pointed the way of guidance and progress."

 ~ Abdu'l-Baha, Baha'i World Faith - Abdu'l-Baha Section, p. 226

September 06, 2013

parenting advice from kaaka Irene

'kaaka' means 'grandmother' in one of the Ugandan languages.  kaaka Irene is my dear friend, Osiria's, mother.  from the moment i met her, there was a spiritual connection of love that brought us close together.  her bright smile and warm heart were like a magnet for mine. 

one time i went to kaaka Irene's room to visit with her.  we sat on the bed together and talked like old friends.  we sorted dry beans, removing the rotten ones from the good ones as we talked about the spirit of life.  she was ready to answer the question i had first asked her upon meeting her:  'What advice would you give me to raise my daughter?"

kaaka Irene raised a daughter whose heart is overflowing with love for God in a genuinely spiritual way of living her life. her daughter is such a spiritual rock in my life that i had to ask kaaka Irene that question.  i wanted to know what she did or how she lived to convey that spirit and moral character into her daughter.

with a page full of notes written in her native tongue she began translating her answer into English (a language she taught herself as an adult while living in Uganda!) while i listened intently to every wise word she humbly offered.  briefly, this is the advice she gave:

  • Parents have to lead by example because kids are always observing to see if you are doing what you say or if its mere talk
  • Parents should speak into the lives of their kids...we have the power to create by the words we say...speak what you want to see happen in the lives of your children
  • Affirm your children and let them know they are very, very precious; let them know what can add or reduce the value of their lives
  • Choosing friends wisely and not following the path of the wrongdoers..this involves learning to say no even to peer pressure...even at the risk of being unpopular among peers....the good should always overcome the bad
  • Make devotion and prayer a dependence on the guidance of God
  • As mothers, we have a big role to play because we have the power to impact generations

listening to kaaka Irene that afternoon left an imprint on my soul.  she spoke as an elder with wisdom -- that blend of spiritual qualities which glows through silence and speech, through stillness and deeds.  her heartfelt words, spoken oftentimes with passion and emphasis, made my soul feel as if it was being nourished.  it felt as if my ancestors and holy souls orchestrated this moment in my life.  i was hungry for her knowledge and experience and she shared it so generously and thoughtfully with me as if i was her own daughter.  it was one of those gems of oneness in my life..

Elavanyo - things will turn right

this song/video by Wan-O, ft. Lil Shaker conveys the story of pain and struggle with the overall theme of having hope through one's love for God.

life is hard for so many people yet hope keeps people persevering.  hope is that deep conviction that things will turn out right.  the human spirit has a resilience that is so strong and humble through love for God.  i am inspired by how people manage to live as well as they do under the most trying of circumstances..

as i continue to listen to music from Ghana my heart continues to miss the souls that i met there and with whom we shared much joy and genuine friendships.  Ghana is full of souls that shine as a result of keeping their spirits strong amidst the hardships of life..