a prayer for newtown

prayer vigil was held recently in the town of Newtown, Connecticut, the scene of a tragic shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School on December 14th. Faith leaders gathered from the Christian, Jewish, Muslim and Bahá’í religions. President Obama addressed those gathered, and the entire world through a live broadcast, offering not only words of comfort and sympathy, but also words that cried out longingly for transformation: “We can’t tolerate this anymore. These tragedies must end. And to end them, we must change.”

John Woodall, member of the Newtown Bahá’í community* who was present at the vigil, shared the following on Facebook over the weekend, perhaps echoing President Obama’s call for transformational change:

We are all quite overwhelmed and exhausted today and wonder how we can move forward. This is the time for grief as the grief is a proof of our love. So, we grieve openly in honor of the love of those lost. We have come in contact with our powerlessness over events. We had no control over this event. But, we have decisive control over our response which can be as life-affirming and noble as our heart can dare to reach. We all have this choice in life with the trials we face.

Mr. Woodall and his wife, Margo, offered a profoundly moving reading from the Bahá’í Writings at the vigil, sharing a letter written by ‘Abdu’l-Bahá to a mother who had lost her son.

The Woodalls have been asked, through their organization The Unity Project, to be a part of the response to the shootings by helping train youth mentors to help counsel younger kids, strengthen family and community bonds, and to help the town heal through large numbers of student inspired service projects. If you’re interested in helping the people of Newtown recover, you can check out The Unity Project on indiegogo—and check them out on Facebook if you’d like to know more.

See also: a few of my reflections on the Newtown tragedy.

* Although various reports have referred to Mr. Woodall as a “minister” or a “leader” of the Bahá’ís, the Bahá’í community has no clergy and its members do not act as priests.

what loveliness is this

leavingi love autumn. i’m not a big fan of daylight saving time, but I do love autumn. there’s something about this time of year that appeals to me. day in and day out, as the sun sets earlier and the day grows shorter, as the wind chills and the earth cools, as the trees lose their leaves and as the sky shifts from brilliant blue to murky grey, I feel like the world around me is speaking, telling me stories of the circles in life, the grand, ever-present and all-encompassing circles of birth and death, of rebirth and renewal. as God’s Manifestation returns to earth from age to age to educate humanity, so does His grace return each year to replenish and renew His creation. Autumn gives me a feeling of gratitude for the things I have that keep me warm and dry, the friends who bless me with the gift of their presence, and the joy of closeness to the ones I love. it reminds me that I am part of this creation, that I too have a time of plenty and a time of waste – life has its ups and downs, and you can never be “on” all the time. sometimes fields will be planted and sometimes they will lie fallow. you know, like that song they wrote back in the sixties. or was it someone else who wrote that…

abandoned gatebeing a Baha’i is such a beautiful, beautiful thing. harrowingly difficult at times, and challenging, to be sure. challenging because we are called to be the quickeners of mankind, pillars of strength around which a shattered, crumbling humanity is destined to seek shelter and solace. difficult because we must set aside our own ego, our own self, and seek the improvement of the life and condition of all. tests and difficulties come at us from all sides sometimes, and they seem designed to make us as uncomfortable as possible. sometimes I wonder: when will it all stop? sometimes I get tired and discouraged, and I want to slip quietly into my bed, sleep it off and wake up in spring when things are better and there’s more light. yeah, sometimes it’s harsh. but those are the breaks for everybody – all are tested, and only so much as their capacity allows. we are all meant to grow, that’s why we have tests. “The plant most pruned by the gardeners is that one which, when summer comes, will have the most beautiful blossoms and the most abundant fruit.” (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Paris Talks). when we hear this we don’t mind any more that the tests will never stop. we don’t mind that this life will be nothing but a continuing cycle of crisis and victory, of triumph and setback. when we hear this we know that there is a plan. the more we exert ourselves, the further ahead we get.

twisted stumpsometimes wack stuff happens at work and I get all pissed off. I don’t always show it because I like to present a smiling face to the world; I like to shine light in people’s lives, not drag them down (it doesn’t always work). sometimes wack stuff happens with friends and family too, like they don’t react the way you want them to or someone’s foot gets stepped on and there’s amends to be made. sometimes things just go royally wrong and nothing is going the way you want it to. and I get mad frustrated and cheesed off and it can stress me right out. that’s just the way it is. Right now I’m frustrated because my boss lost her job last week – restructuring was the reason given – and I’m disappointed because I felt like we were a good team together, and I had grown to respect her, enjoy her company, and, in some ways, look up to her. I’m frustrated that I have to step out of my comfort zone and start finding new ways to adapt to this new situation.

but that’s what happens, and that’s the way it is. trials and troubles, they come and go. I may be disappointed, but overreacting and holding grudges won’t help, right? it’s not about that. it’s about building unity and growing spiritually. it’s about welcoming tests, about turning stumbling blocks into stepping stones to growth. 99% of the time, we look back on big tests and say: damn, I sure did grow because of that. we say: I’m a much stronger/smarter/better person because I went through those difficulties and survived, and learned how to deal with them better the next time they came around.

gotta see it like that right? shine the light, don’t sit around and curse the darkness. so a big thank you to God for all the tests, cos they’ve brought me to where I am today. I wouldn’t know a lot of what I know now if I hadn’t gone through them. kudos, thanks and praise. peace out.

phil lane’s fireside!

There aren’t many events that impress me as deeply as Phil Lane, Jr.’s fireside talk last night. In fact, it left such a potent impression that I’m having a tough time putting it into words, but I’d really like to share with you all how it went.

Perhaps you’re lucky enough to have someone in your life who, when you talk with them, can communicate much more than what they say with words. When Phil Lane spoke to us, he spoke to our hearts, looked into our souls and connected with truths that we all share within us.

While I listened to him speak I was struck by the strong, palpable respect he has for all life and all humanity, not just part of humanity but every race, color and creed. I was struck by the respect he has for elders — among them his grandparents and parents, but especially his father, who passed away in March of this year. His tone was that of complete and utter love, gratitude and respect, especially for the knowledge and wisdom they imparted to him.

Phil Lane is in fact Phil Lane Jr., member of the Yankton Dakota and Chickasaw tribes, renowned aboriginal athlete, and hereditary Chief. “Chief Phil Lane” could thus be an appropriate title. He went by “Phil” during the evening, though. He’s involved in development work around the world, particularly in Aboriginal circles, and in 2000 he received the Year 2000 award from the Foundation for Freedom and Human Rights in Berne, Switzerland, in recognition of his “unique contributions to improve the lives and future hopes of native populations”.

One of the things I learned about during the evening is the great potential of First Nations and Native people. I realized that, in overlooking the Native peoples of Canada and the rest of the world (as many of us often due in our busy, distracted lives), we are overlooking gems of inestimable value, who, if befriended, loved and attracted to the Faith of Bahá’u’lláh, “will become so illumined as to enlighten the whole world”. (‘Abdul-Bahá).

Phil told the amazing story of pre-colonial American civilisation, that is, the story of the original Americans: the various aboriginal tribes of North and South America, or the “People of the Eagle and the Condor“, as he put it. Various tribes inhabited both continents, conducting active trade with one another, building temples, villages, cities, civilisations — and receiving guidance from Divine Messengers and Manifestations of God (one example he cited was Quetzalcoatl). He spoke of several civilisations that built empires: the Aztecs, Mayans, and Incas, for example. He also spoke of how the Manifestations of God warned their people of approaching strife and counselled them to observe unity, lest they be destroyed. Unfortunately, they disobeyed and were eventually scattered by the forces of people who erringly sought to plunder their riches. I was deeply impressed by the way he told this story, never placing blame, but rather recounting in an objective way the actions of “members of the human family” (his words) who were simply misguided and lost in darkness.

He gave quite an interesting perspective on “bad medicine” or “bad magic“, in response to someone’s question. He said that there are four kinds of bad magic: bad thoughts (i.e. critical or negative thoughts, which hurt us and poison our relations with others); backbiting (i.e. criticizing others in their absence); criticism of others (i.e. negative or destructive criticism); and bad or dirty looks (sometimes called the “evil eye”).

A good part of his talk focused on the question of tests and difficulties: simply put, if God loves us, then why does He give us suffering? The answer which seemed to stand out was that through suffering, we grow, learn to abide by God’s will, and thus make ourselves better. Many examples of suffering and calamity were given — including several examples from current events. Even in the face of calamity that grips the world from every side, shaking it to its very foundations, Phil seemed to show no fear. Instead, making allusion to ancient Native prophecies that speak of the “shaking of the earth” — and asserting that the world at present is undergoing the “third shaking”, he explained that mankind is in need of a complete renewal, that the old ways of living will no longer suffice, and that Bahá’u’lláh has come to bring the long-awaited material and spiritual renewal, bringing us through the “third shaking of the earth” into the “fourth world”.

Masterfully and beautifully interweaving Native prophecies with Bahá’í teachings, he put forth a profound and vital message of hope: So many empires have come and gone in the past, brought down by their attachment to their vain imaginings and idle fancies, and their growing heedlessness of Divine Teachings. Today, however, we are at a unique stage, foretold by the Manifestations of God since the dawn of time, when the whole earth has come together and is ready to unite as one human family. Bahá’u’ll´h has come to establish that unity, and renew the Divine message for this day, a “day which shall not be followed by night”.

If you’d like to read more about Phil Lane and his work, please feel free to peruse the Four Worlds website, with which Phil is intimately connected.

If you’d like to read more about First Nations/Native people in Ottawa, in Canada, or in general, here are some links to start with:

If you’d like to read more about the relationship between Baha’is and First Nations/Native people, check out:

chatting with maurice

hey. I’m here in Victoriaville at Marcelle and Maurice Turgeon’s place (you know, the people I stayed with for a month in April 2002. I’m sleeping over since we have an intensive Ruhi book 3 weekend here in Victoriaville. two study circles are studying Ruhi book 3 tomorrow (one is faster-paced than the other). Today (saturday) the slower-paced one met and we studied together the whole day. It was a riot. We were all pretending to be kids and we were acting up so bad. …actually I think we might have gone a little too far. We were pretty tired afterwards, but it was funny.

I had a great talk with Maurice just now; he’s a really spiritual guy, in the fullest sense of the word. He has the wonderful capacity to let his intuition be his guide. We talked about a bunch of things, like old road trips to the Baha’i Temple in Wilmette, teaching the Faith, dreams, and so on. Jessika was there too. We were just talking and talking — or was it listening and listening? Maurice has a lot to tell. Some of the things we talked about gave me a new insight into myself. I told him about some dreams I had had recently (including this one) and he gave some amazing interpretations of them spot on. Heheh. It’s kind of surprising to look backwards and realize how much hard work I’ve put in to hide from the truth about my life — about pain I didn’t want to deal with, feelings I wanted to run from, etc. But right now, for this moment, I think God really is in charge and I want Him to stay there because He helps me deal with that pain and face those feelings. His light shines on me like the sun and shows plainly everything about me — things I didn’t want to see, as well as some things that are pleasant surprises. Now that the initial shock is past, I’m glad to see them. Of course, I probably haven’t finished either. I’m certainly not through trying to be more honest with myself and others. “Speaking with your heart”, as Maurice put it.

Um anyway these past few days have been very intense, and very personal, and sorry but I’m not going into more detail cos you’re not me and this is not the place for such open heart surgery 😉 if you want to know then, well, it wouldn’t hurt to buy me a coffee lol.

flu

got the flu 😛

had a fever of around 102 yesterday, dizziness, just generally messed up. it’s gone down today. phlegmy chest cough, runny nose, congestion, headaches. damn flu. grrrr. arrgghh. grumble grumble. oh well. at least I didn’t catch Ebola, or flesh-eating disease, or AIDS. There’s always a sunny side to life isn’t there?

anyway, I’m gonna be preparing myself to go back home tomorrow. I’ll be taking Monday off at work to continue recuperating. I did some banking today. I think I should be okay to handle the fallout from the accident – I just hope there’s no legal wrangling owing to the fact that the car was leased. I checked my messages tonight, and my insurance company called on christmas eve (!) to tell me the inspector had passed to see my car (!!!), and that the car is repairable (woohoo). great! now I get to take advantage of the services of Mr. Hertz in St-Hyacinthe – the guy who has connections at the Toyota dealership. yum yum.

I get the feeling I’m going to look back at all this and laugh. This has been the most out-of-control vacation I’ve ever had. It starts out with a car accident, ends with a flu, and each day I have no clue what I’m going to be doing. I think it’s done me some good. I mean, even when things are almost totally out of my control, everything still turns out all right. Thanks, God.

cough cough cough cough cough. sniffle. sigh.

untitled friday

What day is it? Oh, it’s Friday. I’m so glad it’s Friday. I’m glad I don’t have to come in to work tomorrow. I’m tired and I need a break. I had a lot of things to do this week and didn’t get much sleep. It was one of those weeks. Come tonight, I’m just gonna take it easy, let myself get some rest, and go some good stuff for myself, like exercise, cleaning up my apartment, and so on. Mom and Dad should be coming down tomorrow morning, so that’ll be fun. and on Sunday, it’s my birthday, and I’ve been invited over for dinner at France and Jessika’s. And to top it all off, there’s a 3CJ meeting Sunday night. WOOHOO

Hey, I already got one birthday present. Gabrielle gave me her old computer, which she wasn’t using anymore. it’s a family hand-me-down; a Pentium. JUST Pentium. No 2, 3 or 4, or whatever. I don’t even remember what the processor speed is; it must be something like 64 MHz. I’ll look it up and let you know how heartbreakingly low the number is. No, seriously, I really love it. I’ve been wanting a wintel box for a while now, just so I can have some better compatibility with the rest of the people I know (and so that I can run Office without having to shell out to upgrade my G4 to OS X — although I should do that anyway).

So, Sunday I’ll be 24. the older I get, the more chance I have to look back and see just what a winding road I’ve gone down. It’s funny how you get to know some people sometimes and starting out they seem like the happiest, nicest, most fulfilled and well-adjusted people on the face of the planet, but when you get to know them real well you suddenly find out they’ve gone through the most excruciatingly painful tests in their lives. And the best part is, sometimes they’re not putting up a front. Sometimes they really are happy, well-adjusted and fulfilled, even though they’ve gone through what seems like hell to get there. Perhaps that’s because they know that doing their time in this life is better than doing it in the next.

I can’t say that my tests are finished in life; in fact, they’re still only starting. But I like the nature of these new tests. They tell me that I’ve been progressing, that I’ve been growing. Good for me. I’ll just keep on going, one day at a time, and see what else happens. Life is a pretty nutty thing isn’t it? Thanks, God.

For those of you who require more explanation: dig it.