Leaf of the Tree

Finding the Divine in the Details


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Purpose helps balance our being with our doing

Photo: N. Augusta Vincent

When we translate the spiritual inspiration we receive into a genuine act of service, our motivation is most likely one of improving our relationships.

But something far deeper also transpires, though it may initially go unnoticed. We are bringing out from the latent state of potentiality our true self and purpose.

The genuine acts of service that we have exchanged with another person in this world form the eternal part of our relationship that transcends this material world.

The material gifts we exchange with loved ones will return to dust, but the love we show them will last forever.

Photo: N. Augusta Vincent

What is the connection between relationships and the concept of investigating our own reality? The personal investigation of one’s reality is an abstract endeavor and it can be difficult to assess progress.

However, the more successful we are in uncovering our true self, the better the decisions we will make regarding our lives and the people in them, which translates into healthier and happier relationships.

This will provide us with tangible evidence that we are making progress on the path of service and self-discovery.

To live to our highest potential, it seems that we need to come into awareness of our true selves and also to establish a balance between our being and our doing that is rooted in our truest purpose.

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Co-authors Ron Tomanio, Diane Iverson and Phyllis Ring explore these and related themes in With Thine Own Eyes: Why Imitate the Past When We Can Investigate Reality? published by George Ronald Publisher.

Find the book at:

 

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The reality of unity in our midst

Photo: Herta Goetz

Fifty-eight years ago, in a little German village, my older sister, then a high-school sophomore, taught these words of Edwin Markham to me:

He drew a circle that shut me out —

Heretic, rebel, a thing to flout.

But love and I had the wit to win:

We drew a circle and took him in!

~ Edwin Markham,  Outwitted

My endlessly patient older sister and me, circa 1960.

Many evenings, my parents and I would climb the hillsides above that village to reach the table-like land at the top, where there were old orchards of apple trees. It was a LONG climb, especially on short legs. The reward was the sweet fruit waiting at the end of the climb, and the sunsets visible from that vantage point. That’s a metaphor that has stayed with me for life.

Until my sister reminded me of this poem recently, I doubt I’d given it concrete thought for years. Yet when I “heard” it again, something began to play inside me like a song. All through the time and distance I’ve traversed since that German summer, this has traveled with me, setting the roots of the tree of my life into the soil that grew my view of myself, always, as a citizen of the world.

I’ve been fortunate enough to return to this village several times with my husband, and even once with our grown children. Although my family lived there a bare eight months, I realize now that the war-weary Germans there who showed me such kindness insured that it’s at the heart of all I’ve loved about their country ever since.

Interior of the Baha’i House of Worship, near Frankfurt, Germany.

I also know today that because my WWII-veteran father could appreciate Germans, my British mother, injured in the Blitz, could forgive them, and my sister could be so determined to teach me the principle of oneness, my pathway of becoming a Baha’i no doubt began growing from the seed of my life that very summer.

Because so many different people were willing to care about me, and about showing an open heart, I would come to recognize instantly, as though it were a song already inside me, the truth of these words:

 

Bahá’u’lláh has drawn the circle of unity, He has made a design for the uniting of all the peoples, and for the gathering of them all under the shelter of the tent of universal unity. This is the work of the Divine Bounty, and we must all strive with heart and soul until we have the reality of unity in our midst, and as we work, so will strength be given unto us.                 ~’Abdu’l-Bahá, Paris Talks


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Seed of Reality, Tree of Life

Photo: N. Augusta Vincent

GLEANINGS FOUND HERE AND THERE:

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 reality itself will be established.

~ ‘Abdu’l-Baha, The Promulgation of Universal Peace

Artwork: Tobey A. Ring

Even though we find a defective branch or leaf upon this tree of humanity or an imperfect blossom, it, nevertheless, belongs to this tree and not to another.

Therefore, it is our duty to protect and cultivate this tree until it reaches perfection. If we examine its fruit and find it imperfect, we must strive to make it perfect.

There are souls in the human world who are ignorant; we must make them knowing. Some growing upon the tree are weak and ailing; we must assist them toward health and recovery. If they are as infants in development, we must minister to them until they attain maturity.

We should never detest and shun them as objectionable and unworthy. We must treat them with honor, respect and kindness; for God has created them and not Satan. They are not manifestations of the wrath of God but evidences of His divine favor. God, the Creator, has endowed them with physical, mental and spiritual qualities that they may seek to know and do His will; therefore, they are not objects of His wrath and condemnation.

In brief, all humanity must be looked upon with love, kindness and respect; for what we behold in them are none other than the signs and traces of God Himself. All are evidences of God; therefore, how shall we be justified in debasing and belittling them, uttering anathema and preventing them from drawing near unto His mercy? This is ignorance and injustice, displeasing to God; for in His sight all are His servants.”

 ~ Abdu’l-Baha, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 230


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The warmth of others

I am so thankful to share this heart-sustaining Guest Post from writer and blogger Jane Bullock.

Sketch by Kathy Gilman

Her blog, luluopolis, provides daily inspiration (and often delightfully humorous company). Today, these thoughts of hers took my breath away.

 

Bird Wisdom

By Jane Bullock

Ever notice how some birds fly in a sort of formation? They wheel and dip and soar together, and when they are tired of that, they all roost on telephone poles and wires. They also like to cluster in trees together, gossiping and scolding each other. They remind me of old women who love to cluck and complain about the youth of each generation.

Photo: N. Augusta Vincent

When I lived in Texas, I became very fond of the birds who liked to perch in the trees next to my apartment. It would be just about the time when the sun started descending into the hills, and the moon would show her shining face to us. It was just as if the birds knew that it was time to settle in for the night, and have their last bit of chatter before sleep.

There was a sweet story I heard long ago about birds in the winter. When the days grew cold and there was little shelter for the birds, the little birds would ask the larger birds if they could cuddle up under one of their wings. The body heat of the big bird would keep a little bird warm and safe during a cold night.

Artwork: Jeannie Hunt

While many of the big birds allowed this, some did not. When an extremely cold night came, the birds sheltered up together to stay warm. However, there were a few of the big birds who refused to shelter the little ones.

When morning came, the sun came out and the air began to warm a bit. All the big birds and the little birds that they sheltered made it through the cold night. But all the big birds who refused to shelter the little ones died of the cold.

Even as little as the birds were who sheltered under the wings of larger birds, their tiny warmth kept the big birds alive. And of course, the warmth of the big birds kept the little ones alive. But those who wouldn’t share died cold and alone.

This little story always reminds me how of important it is to reach out to others, to share what warmth we have to give, and to cherish the warmth of others. We need each other, not just to weather a hard time, but to remember that we are all in this life together.

Find Jane’s blog, luluopolis, here: https://luluopolis.com


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What future is Spirit inviting for us?

As the new week, month, and year all arrive at once, I’ve been reflecting on themes that are surfacing in the hours of these fast-changing times.

The planet and the undeniable presence of Spirit in the world are speaking.

What are they calling for?

How are we listening, or not?

How are our hearts — Spirit’s intended home, by Divine design — responding?

“All that is in heaven and earth I have ordained for thee, except the human heart, which I have made the habitation of My beauty and glory;” Bahá’u’lláh wrote nearly a century and a half ago, “yet thou didst give My home and dwelling to another than Me; and whenever the manifestation of My holiness sought His own abode, a stranger found He there, and, homeless, hastened unto the sanctuary of the Beloved. Notwithstanding I have concealed thy secret and desired not thy shame.”

Photo: N. Augusta Vincent

Our indigenous family, Native peoples in every part of the planet, know and honor the truth carried in these words. They know the truth of what is home for every being, and the sacredness that the heart holds as spirit’s home.

These are the essentials for going forth into the waiting future, the one that we all play a part in bringing forth.

“The eyes of the future are looking back at us and they are praying for us to see beyond our own time,” author Terry Tempest Williams has written. “To protect what is wild is to protect what is gentle. … Wild mercy is in our hands.”

“Be thou severed from this world, and reborn through the sweet scents of holiness that blow from the realm of the All-Highest.

“Be thou a summoner to love, and be thou kind to all the human race.

“Love thou the children of men and share in their sorrows. Be thou of those who foster peace. Offer thy friendship, be worthy of trust.

Be thou a balm to every sore, be thou a medicine for every ill. Bind thou the souls together.

 ~ Selections from the Writings of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá


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Let us be light

O Son of Being! With the hands of power I made thee and with the fingers of might I created thee; and within thee have I placed the essence of My light.

O Son of Being! Thou art My lamp and My light is in thee. Get thou from it thy radiance and seek none other than Me. For I have created thee rich and have bountifully shed my favor upon thee.     Baha’u’llah

Every once in a while, a piece of truth that’s been looking me in the face for years, making no attempt to hide itself, stops me in my tracks. Often it’s something in recent life experience that sounds an inner chord and makes words I think I’ve heard and understood come through with new implications as loud and unmistakable as a siren.

An experience I had in the dark gave me a whole new appreciation for light, and lamps.

I suppose that darkness, ironically, is as good a place as any to have an epiphany about these.

When my husband and I rented a small vacation apartment in Germany, the landlord showed us around the place and cautioned, “Remember the light.”

When we returned home later that night, it quickly became obvious why he’d said this. We had neglected to put on the exterior light.

And on this overcast night, the narrow old-town streets, most of which are also hills, were incredibly dark. The uneven, irregularly spaced steps down into the tiny alley on which our apartment’s front door was located were treacherous.

We groped our way down slowly, VERY carefully, in the thick black. The cobblestones underfoot were still slippery from rain. We were relieved to finally step inside without any sprains or falls.

Waiting the very next morning as I spent some quiet time at the start of the day were those two passages above. This is definitely a way the angels have their fun with me, sometimes.

And there was this passage from ‘Abdu’l-Baha to go with them:

The good pleasure of God is love for His creatures.

The will and plan of God is that each individual member of humankind shall become illumined like unto a lamp, radiant with all the destined virtues of humanity, leading his fellow creatures out of natural darkness into the heavenly light.

Therein rests the virtue and glory of the world of humanity.

One light, and so very many lamps — each and every member of humankind.

Just what kind of brilliant light might all of those “destined virtues of humanity” provide that makes it bright enough to lead us from the “natural darkness” of a sore-tried world into the safe, joyful freedom of “heavenly light”?

Adapted from Life at First Sight: Finding the Divine in the Details: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00B5MR9B0


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The lights of the love of God

GLEANINGS FOUND HERE AND THERE

Man has two powers; and his development, two aspects.

One power is connected with the material world, and by it he is capable of material advancement.

The other power is spiritual, and through its development his inner, potential nature is awakened.

These powers are like two wings. Both must be developed, for flight is impossible with one wing.

Praise be to God! Material advancement has been evident in the world, but there is need of spiritual advancement in like proportion. We must strive unceasingly and without rest to accomplish the development of the spiritual nature in man, and endeavor with tireless energy to advance humanity toward the nobility of its true and intended station.

For the body of man is accidental; it is of no importance. The time of its disintegration will inevitably come.

But the spirit of man is essential and, therefore, eternal.

It is a divine bounty. It is the effulgence of the Sun of Reality and, therefore, of greater importance than the physical body.

 ~ ‘Abdu’l-Baha, The Promulgation of Universal Peace

 

Today the world of humanity is walking in darkness because it is out of touch with the world of God. That is why we do not see the signs of God in the hearts of men. The power of the Holy Spirit has no influence.

When a divine spiritual illumination becomes manifest in the world of humanity, when divine instruction and guidance appear, then enlightenment follows, a new spirit is realized within, a new power descends, and a new life is given. It is like the birth from the animal kingdom into the kingdom of man.

When man acquires these virtues, the oneness of the world of humanity will be revealed, the banner of international peace will be upraised, equality between all mankind will be realized, and the Orient and Occident will become one.

Then will the justice of God become manifest, all humanity will appear as the members of one family, and every member of that family will be consecrated to cooperation and mutual assistance.

The lights of the love of God will shine; eternal happiness will be unveiled; everlasting joy and spiritual delight will be attained.

~ ‘Abdu’l-Baha, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, Talks Delivered by ‘Abdu’l-Baha during His Visit to the United States and Canada in 1912 

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