Leaf of the Tree

Finding the Divine in the Details


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How copper becomes gold

Photo: Saffron Moser

 

Some words that particularly guide the way for me, right now —

“The teachings of the Bahá’í Faith instruct us to work to reshape society based on principles of love, inclusiveness, and reciprocity.

“This requires that our means be consistent with our ends―that is, by transcending current approaches that tend to divide people into contending groups, raising consciousness in such a way as to bring them together in the earnest and honest search for solutions.

Photo: Diane Kirkup

“The language we use and the attitudes we take, while not ignoring the harsh realities that exist in the world, should appeal to the nobler aspirations of our fellow-citizens. They should reflect assurance that the vast majority of us sincerely desire justice, and must be unifying rather than divisive.

“Above all, our approach must be suffused with the spirit of the sacred Word, which grants us access to immense spiritual resources. Indeed, it is the one power on earth that can transform the copper of human consciousness into the gold of spiritual perception and behavior.”

 ~ National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha’is of the United States, February 25, 2017.


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The building of the good lasts forever

IMG_3629

Photo: Nelson Ashberger

It’s a special day for Bahá’ís around the world today as we remember The Báb.

His life and the spiritual revolution in its story was my first encounter with the Revelation of the Bahá’í Faith.

From those earliest days, these words of The Báb’s have traveled with my grateful heart:

     “O peoples of the world! Whatsoever ye have offered up in the way of the One True God, ye shall indeed find preserved by God, the Preserver, intact at God’s Holy Gate.”

Every sparrow, every hair of our head, every feather and seed and blade of grass is accounted for.

Imagine the real spiritual presence of each one of our willing efforts and actions.

It can be easy, in these hours and days, to feel dismayed by the world as we see it around us.

But the building of the good is what is preserved — the increase and advance of love in the coming forth of what is of God.


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In the borderlands

strasbourgI recently returned to Europe for the first time since the release of my novel, The Munich Girl. Though my husband and I travel there a lot, this trip’s itinerary included places we’ve seldom or never visited.

Our route followed the natural border of the Rhine River, which means we repeatedly encountered those curious amalgamations of cuisine, culture, architectural styles, and attitudes that occur along divisions that humans decide ought to exist simply because geography seems to suggest them.

photo-2In the building dwarfed by its neighbors in the photo to the right, we, in a scene like something out of The Pink Panther, spoke three languages with the server in the course of his taking our order. As we all tried to accommodate each other, one or more of us kept shifting to a new one at exactly the wrong time. But I think we all appreciated the spirit of our intent.

We still wound up with some of the best Alsatian cooking I’ve had in a long time, generous with onions, cheese, and light buttery pastry I’ve found nowhere else.

833602_Food-KitchenWise-Alsatian-OThis section of France’s border with Germany is long-accustomed to shifting back and forth between nationalities and languages. As our tour guide explained why it is that even the youngest schoolchildren here have their classes in at least three languages, she described how, between world wars and other upheavals, her grandfather’s nationality changed four times in his 20th-century lifetime, though he never moved from his home city.

Much like clouds and changes in the weather, political insistence and other demands that humans impose on each other can come and go, often with great extremes. Within individual lives, challenges can arise in this way, too.

thHow we face and meet our choices — and what that helps us become — seems the vital focus in it all, however dire or uncertain things may appear.

And in that experience, though we walk the path of our individual lives alone, we also seem inextricably linked. This is one of the themes that I hope the story of The Munich Girl manages to convey.

Traveling along the borderlands of this river reminded me that navigating shifts in our circumstances is one of the main opportunities we receive to hone and develop some particularly pleasing qualities. I encountered them over and over in our stops along this route: a spirit of acceptance, flexibility, adaptability. Resilience. Relaxed openness. Even, delightfully, a kind of good-humored playfulness.

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Image: Charity Elise Designs / Charity Pabst-Hofert

It was as if over time, through all of that practice with change, people have adopted something of the flow that the river embodies.

“Thou wast created to bear and endure,” one passage from Baha’i writings states, while another declares that we are “created for happiness.”

These might sometimes seem nearly contradictory.

Perhaps the people I observed as I traveled have begun to reconcile what joy and hardship have to show us when we don’t impose a border between them; learned to understand that, like the waters of the river, each comes and goes, like the clouds and waters — and even invading armies.

But we get to decide how we embrace and anchor our own happiness.

 


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What is preserved and never lost

IMG_3617The week brings a very special day for Bahá’ís around the world as we remember The Báb.

His life and the spiritual revolution in its story was my first encounter with the Revelation of the Bahá’í Faith.

From those earliest days, these words of The Báb’s have traveled with my grateful heart: IMG_3629

     “O peoples of the world! Whatsoever ye have offered up in the way of the One True God, ye shall indeed find preserved by God, the Preserver, intact at God’s Holy Gate.”

Every sparrow, every hair of our head, every feather and seed and blade of grass is accounted for. And every wish of our heart.

IMG_8756Imagine the real spiritual presence of each one of our willing efforts and actions.

It can be easy to feel dismayed by the world as we see it around us.

But the building of the good is what is preserved — the increase and advance of love in the coming forth of what is of God.

Photos courtesy of Nelson Ashberger and Saffron Moser.


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The increase and advance of love

Israel 058It’s a special time for Bahá’ís around the world as we remember The Báb.

His life and the spiritual revolution in its story was my first encounter with the Revelation of the Bahá’í Faith. From those earliest days, these words of The Báb’s have traveled with my grateful heart:

     “O peoples of the world! Whatsoever ye have offered up in the way of the One True God, ye shall indeed find preserved by God, the Preserver, intact at God’s Holy Gate.” Israel 004

 

Every sparrow, every hair of our head, every feather and seed and blade of grass is accounted for.

Imagine the real spiritual presence of each one of our willing efforts and actions.

It is easy to feel dismayed by the world as we see it around us.

But the building of the good is what is preserved — the increase and advance of love in the coming forth of what is of God.


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The grace that wakes my heart

When I awake with a prayer running through my head like a song, I know that my day is already wide open to happiness.

Instead of finding myself awash in thoughts run rampant — or consciousness dragging to life like sluggish motor oil, here is a mild, reassuring rhythm already oscillating inside me. All-embracing, and transporting.

This affects me so deeply that when it’s time to read the prayers I customarily say with my husband each morning, the mere sight of words like “the All-Merciful, the Ever-Forgiving” and “the ocean of Thy nearness” overwhelm me to astonished tears, like immersion in an ocean of light.

I am embarking upon what members of the Bahá’í Faith sometimes call the “Season of Restraint.” This is a period at the close of our calendar year when, for 19 days, we are asked to undergo a material fast from food and drink during daylight hours as “an outer token of the spiritual fast … the withholding of oneself from all appetites of the self, taking on the characteristics of the spirit, being carried away by the breathings of heaven and catching fire from the love of God.” 

Fasting from the appetites of the body reminds me how insistent these appetites can be; how unsatisfied, and unsatisfying.

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Photo: Saffron Moser

And it also helps me be aware of how much time the business of survival can consume in my day, and my awareness — especially when it’s overemphasized by the culture around me to the point at which I might begin to forget that I have a spiritual life at all.

Fasting reminds me that there is an entirely other possibility waiting in my living that’s like a portal to a wider, kinder refuge. One in which I am visited and accompanied by a grace like the prayer that woke my heart.

coverthumbAdapted from Life at First Sight: Finding the Divine in the Details:

http://www.amazon.com/Life-First-Sight-Finding-Details-ebook/dp/B00B5MR9B0/ref=tmm_kin_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&sr=&qid=


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“The Spirit of God is working in your midst.”

There’s a string of days that glimmer like pearls for me. They occurred around this time of  year, when my friend Marian shared the last stage of her earthly life.

A deep love of spiritual life brought us together. I was 20,  she was 80, and from our first encounter, my young eyes saw that her ageless spirit had found its way far past the world’s pain and confusion and wasn’t limited by them any longer, in any way. How, I wondered, do you find a life like that?

The answer she shared out of her experience became my own: the path of the Bahá’í Faith. I watched her example of being a willing, hopeful, and incredibly creative servant of the human family who was also gifted at helping others feel the limitless possibilities of love. She helped me understand that most often, human souls don’t recognize the potential that’s been treasured in each of us — and that life gets better and better as we encourage and welcome this in ourselves and others.

Marian treated everyone like precious little mines of gems, and maintained a happy, positive tone in this treasure hunt that simply left no room for negativity to make a nest. I’m so thankful I had this reality reflected for me while I was so young, because it’s given me more time to try to share it in my own life.

The mystical experience that accompanied her affirming love could be startling. I’d often receive a call or letter in which she addressed matters that were precisely what I’d been struggling with — but hadn’t shared with anyone. Her gentle suggestions or ideas — sometimes, simply helpful questions — were always an absolutely perfect remedy.

I hadn’t seen her for almost a year the day I first drove over to the small apartment she’d rented after her husband died. Her face was a vivid gold when she met me at the door. I noticed that she talked animatedly about finishing all of the projects she was working on.  Two weeks later, surgery revealed an inoperable tumor on her pancreas.

DCwondersky419732_10151485192181802_265278193_nShe set about the projects she had yet to complete, wanting to be sure that others could carry on the work that was her heart’s desire, which encouraged seeing spirituality and science as allies. She believed that just as religion and science were created to embrace and inform each other, so, our rational and spiritual selves are meant to be collaborators for our own benefit, and our world’s. The educational programs she developed usually reached first toward those whom society tends to overlook or forget.

During those days after her diagnosis, she thanked God continually for the mental clarity that allowed her to pursue her work in the last weeks of her life. “Prayer, and the Word of God, can be mighty powerful nourishment,” she’d tell me with a huge twinkle in her eye. She was tremendously kind and patient with her physical self as it grew weaker each day, an example of loving-kindness I will always value.

On one especially difficult day, she suddenly beamed at me with what felt like an in-rushing of great, surging force and declared,  “We continually overlook the power of love.” IMG_6181

Neighbors and friends still talk about those last hours in her home, when the room seemed to fill up with love and happiness and they didn’t want to leave.

Surprisingly, she used to tell me that, at an earlier time in her life, being ungrateful and impatient had been two of her most difficult spiritual battles, something I found impossible to imagine.

“Then, when I was ready to completely give up on this life, something told me that it was time to stop my fighting, and I heard those words, what Jesus promised: ‘The Spirit of God is working in your midst.'”

From the day she accepted this reality, I believe she became an unfailing channel for its truth. I can still feel her love at work in my life today, and feel my undying connection with her most strongly when I strive to do the same.

Adapted from Life at First Sight: Finding the Divine in the Details

http://www.amazon.com/Life-First-Sight-Finding-Details-ebook/dp/B00B5MR9B0/ref=tmm_kin_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&sr=8-1&qid=1385482351