Northern Illinois Bahá'ís

Northern Illinois Bahá'ís

Uniting Northern Illinois & Chicagoland

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How to Have More Spiritual Conversations in the New Year

Baha'i - Sun, 12/30/2018 - 10:00am

People may have shifted away from openly discussing spirituality, but that doesn’t mean that modern life can’t be full of spiritual conversations. People say that religion and politics should never be...

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Categories: Bahá'í Blogs

How Your Guilt Can Prevent Change

Baha'i - Sun, 12/30/2018 - 8:00am

Do you feel guilty when you can’t maintain optimism and joy? Sometimes, in an effort to become our best selves, we tend towards guilt after we inevitably fall short. The...

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5 Things I’ve Learned About God as Our True Friend

Baha'i Blog - Sat, 12/29/2018 - 6:31pm

What is a true friend? Someone who is always there for us? Someone who never lets us down? Someone who is completely sincere? I think that a true friend is all of these things.

On the one hand, a true friend is someone who doesn’t need to force themselves to be your friend because friendship is about sincerity. But on the other hand, a true friend is someone who doesn’t let you down, and this does require effort – to meet, visit, and stay in touch. Inevitably, since we are only human, we will sometimes let each other down. I know I have felt let down by friends, and I’m sure that I have let my friends down too, and probably in ways that I’m not even aware of.

This can make us feel quite alone, like our friends are not really there for us. But this feeling of aloneness and abandonment is also a gift. All of us, whether we believe in God or not, must at some time face ourselves and feel our aloneness because while we do live together on this earth, we all live within the prism of our own consciousness. And if we do happen to believe in God, in that place of aloneness, we are perhaps even better able to see that God is our True Friend.

So, in what way is God our True Friend? Here are five things I’ve learned: 1. God loves us for who we are. Some friendships are based on ulterior motives. Friendships can be forged for the potential benefits they may yield, and not out of a sincere affection towards one another.

“Worldly friends, seeking their own good, appear to love one the other, whereas the true Friend hath loved and doth love you for your own sakes…”

2. God will never let us go. Unlike people, who over the years relinquish ties with each other, God will always maintain His tie to us. It is we who have to turn to Him.

“O SON OF BEING! Love Me, that I may love thee. If thou lovest Me not, My love can in no wise reach thee. Know this, O servant.”

3. God will never let us down. He is the Sustainer of the whole universe Whose bounties are constantly being diffused to us all.

“Say: God sufficeth all things above all things, and nothing in the heavens or in the earth but God sufficeth. Verily, He is in Himself the Knower, the Sustainer, the Omnipotent.”

4. God will always reply to us. How many times have you called someone or written to them and not received a response? This can feel quite hurtful, especially for those of us who grew up in a world where this was not the norm. Unfortunately, in many fast paces places around the globe, this is now becoming the standard.

“God will answer the prayer of every servant if that prayer is urgent. His mercy is vast, illimitable. He answers the prayers of all His servants. He answers the prayer of this plant. The plant prays potentially, ‘O God! Send me rain!’ God answers the prayer, and the plant grows. God will answer anyone.”

5. God will always forgive us. Despite our best intentions, sometimes we do let each other down. Sometimes we are too tired or busy to meet our friends’ needs. Other times we fail to meet those needs because we do not understand them and only find out after our friend has been hurt by our lack of attention and care for them. Our friend might hold a grudge against us, but nothing we do can stop God from loving us, and He will even forgive us when we fail to live a noble life.

“Turn unto Him, and fear not because of thy deeds. He, in truth, forgiveth whomsoever He desireth as a bounty on His part; no God is there but Him, the Ever-Forgiving, the All-Bounteous.”

What better friend can we ask for? None. Even if any of us have found their “soul mate” in life, whether that be a romantic partner or platonic friend, even this person is no replacement for our True Friend, God. Yes, friendships with one another are important. But I think that the relationship with our Maker is of supreme importance. It is the friendship that sustains our very beings. It is the tie that is indestructible and everlasting.

That said, while God is our True and Ultimate Friend, I believe we still need to nurture our friendships with one another. We have to do our best not to let each other down at the same time as realising that each one of us is going to fail at this, especially in this fast-paced world we live in. We need to strive to be a good friend to others by being loving and loyal, and at the very same time, we need to forgive others when they fail to do this towards us. The best way to ensure that our friendships are pure is to try to see God in our friends for as Baha’u’llah says of the spiritual seeker: “In every face, he seeketh the beauty of the Friend”.


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Categories: Bahá'í Blogs

Why Does Beauty Matter?

Baha'i - Sat, 12/29/2018 - 8:00am

As odd as this may sound, I love movies about prisoners of war—POWs—because I am always inspired by stories that show people rising above unfathomably horrid circumstances. These films depict...

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Breaking Bad and the Baha’i Teachings on Ego

Baha'i - Sat, 12/29/2018 - 7:00am

The highly acclaimed AMC TV show Breaking Bad deftly explains how the Baha’i teachings view the human ego as the devil. But first, a few disclaimers: I am no expert...

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Categories: Bahá'í Blogs

The Earth is One Country

Baha'i - Fri, 12/28/2018 - 11:15am

In his final speech in North America in 1912, Abdu’l-Baha emphatically challenged all humanity to evaluate, for themselves, whether they heeded God’s teachings: Consider how the Prophets Who have been...

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Why Are Humans Beings So Complex?

Baha'i - Fri, 12/28/2018 - 8:00am

As we ascend the Chain of Being, from mineral to plant to animal to human, we find ever more complex creations—yet nothing in material creation is more complex than a...

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The Lowly Sifter of Wheat

One Bahá'í's Approach - Thu, 12/27/2018 - 7:24pm
There are certain people who become known by their professions. I remember one woman, when I was a child, who was known as Karen the Crossing Guard. And then there was Sam the Candy Man. In many communities there are people who are known throughout the area as "the butcher", or "the tinker". In fact, it is because of this synonymity with one's profession that many families got their surnames. That's why "Smith" is such a common last name in English.

One person, though, who will forever be remembered in this manner is Mulla Muhammad Ja'far Gandum-Pak-Kun, the "Sifter of Wheat".

He was living in Isfahan when Mulla Husayn came through to spread the new message of the Bab. He heard the message and responded immediately.

Beyond this, we don't actually know a lot about him.

We know that he met Mulla Husayn, and then the next we hear about him a few years later he is heading off to assist him at the siege of the Fort of Shaykh Tabarsi. As he's leaving Isfahan, he has his sieve with him, and people ask him where he is going in such a hurry. "I have arisen," he is reported to have replied, "to join the glorious company of the defenders of the fort of Shaykh Tabarsi! With this sieve which I carry with me, I intend to sift the people in every city through which I pass. Whomsoever I find ready to espouse the Cause I have embraced, I will ask to join me and hasten forthwith to the field of martyrdom." He joined Mulla Husayn and Quddus, and all the other defenders there, and perished during that historic battle.

So remarkable, though, was he that the Bab mentioned him in the Persian Bayan: In the land of Sad [Isfahan], which to outward seeming is a great city, in every corner of whose seminaries are vast numbers of people regarded as divines and doctors, yet when the time came for inmost essences to be drawn forth, only its sifter of wheat donned the robe of discipleship. This is the mystery of what was uttered by the kindred of the Prophet Muhammad -- upon them be the peace of God -- concerning this Revelation, saying that the abased shall be exalted and the exalted shall be abased.

Even Baha'u'llah mentioned him in, of all books, the Kitab-i-Aqdas: Call ye to mind the shaykh whose name was Muhammad-Hasan, who ranked among the most learned divines of his day. When the True One was made manifest, this shaykh, along with others of his calling, rejected Him, while a sifter of wheat and barley accepted Him and turned unto the Lord. Though he was occupied both night and day in setting down what he conceived to be the laws and ordinances of God, yet when He Who is the Unconstrained appeared, not one letter thereof availed him, or he would not have turned away from a Countenance that hath illumined the faces of the well-favoured of the Lord.

For someone about whom we know so little, he has certainly been given a great place in our history.

So what does all this have to do with us today?

Great question. Before I answer that, though, I need to share an observation.

One interesting aspect of this story is the speed at which it must have occurred. We know that Mulla Husayn first recognized the Bab during the evening of 22 May, and that he was the only Letter of the Living for a period of 40 days, or until 1 July. We also know that the Bab left Shiraz for His pilgrimage on 3 October. This means that there were only 95 days between the other Letters of the Living arriving in Shiraz and the Bab leaving on His pilgrimage.

Sometime after the other Letters of the Living arrived, the Bab prepared each of them to go out and face the tasks and tests awaiting them. Mulla Husayn He sent north, first to Isfahan. It was there that he met Mulla Jafar, the Sifter of Wheat. While he was in Isfahan at this time, he also presented the message of the Bab to a number of the scholars there, all of whom rejected the message.

He then continued on to Kashan, Qum and Tehran. In each of these cities he presented the message to the learned at various schools. It was also during this time that he heard about Baha'u'llah and sent a message especially to Him. From there he continued on to Mashad, where he wrote down what had happened during his journey, and sent this letter back to the Bab in Shiraz, who proceeded to leave on 3 October.

Given that the distance from Shiraz to Mashad is 1150 miles, and that an average horseman can only ride about 25 miles per day, it begins to put into perspective just how little time Mulla Husayn had in any one of those cities. Of course, a hardened rider could cover 50 miles in a day, but still, that doesn't leave a lot of time.

At the least, you have to give 23 days of riding just to get to Mashad, plus 23 more days for a letter to get back to the Bab. That only leaves a maximum of 49 days for all that stuff with the Letters of the Living, and all his teaching in the various cities.

So how long, really, could he have possibly been speaking to this Sifter of Wheat? it could not have been very long.

Now, the question is, "Why am I telling you all this?"

Simple, really.

We often question people when they want to become Baha'i. how much do they really know? Should we allow them to declare, or should we ensure that they know enough to understanding what they are declaring?

We often think that people need to study before enrolling. Many of us discount the illiterate or unlearned, thinking they can't possibly understand enough to enroll.

The Sifter of Wheat throws all these arguments to the wayside.

There are people out there who are ready to become Baha'i merely upon hearing the word, and we should honour that. While it took me over 5 years of searching to declare, I witnessed a dear friend jump when she heard me mention the Faith to someone else. She declared just a couple of days later. There is no reason to think that people have to take years, or even months, to recognize. Some blessed souls are just ready.

There are people out there who cannot read, but some of them will respond faster to the teachings than the most learned of scholars out there. It all depends on the quality of their soul, not their degrees. Mulla Jafar was unlearned, and he was the only one in a city renowned for its doctors and scholars to rise up to answer the Call.

This, to me, is one of the greatest legacies of this hero of our Faith: He rose up to show us all what the lowest of us are capable of.
Categories: Bahá'í Blogs

How the Baha’i Faith Can Quicken Us Toward a Better World

Baha'i - Thu, 12/27/2018 - 10:00am

I happened to overhear a young woman in a coffee shop tell a friend that she had just seen a classic Western movie—and was disappointed. She said that it didn’t...

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Melting Pot or Salad Bowl: Multi-Culturalism in America

Baha'i - Thu, 12/27/2018 - 8:00am

In his book The Disuniting of America: Reflections on a Multicultural Society, the historian Arthur Schlesinger Jr. wrote that “a cult of ethnicity” endangers the unity of pluralistic societies. The...

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Baha’i Blog’s New ‘World Citizen’ T-shirt Design Now Available!

Baha'i Blog - Wed, 12/26/2018 - 12:05pm

The team at Baha’i Blog is super excited to launch our latest t-shirt design on the Baha’i Blog Shop! It’s called ‘World Citizen’, and like all of our t-shirt designs, we only print a limited number in a variety of sizes, and once we’re sold out, that’s it! So hurry up and order your shirts before they’re gone!

The Baha’i Blog team have create these shirts to help us raise funds to keep doing what we’re doing, and to also explore the use of Baha’i-inspired content through the medium of worn apparel. All of our shirts include FREE GLOBAL SHIPPING too! So if you’d like a cool Baha’i-inspired t-shirt and also want to help us in our endeavors, then check out our online shop and place your orders now!

Our new ‘World Citizen’ t-shirt was designed by our very own Collis Ta’eed, and is inspired by Baha’u’llah’s quotation: “The earth is but one country, and mankind its citizens”. Collis actually designed the shirt when we first started Baha’i Blog, but we weren’t selling t-shirts then, so we’re happy to be able to share his awesome design with everyone now.

Just a couple of days ago we used the Grand Canyon Baha’i Conference as a launching pad to sell our new design. It was so popular that we’ve already almost sold out of many of the sizes, so head on over to Baha’i Blog’s online Shop to get your shirts now before it’s too late!

The ‘World Citizen’ shirt is navy blue, 100% cotton, and screen printed by hand in California using water-based inks. It’s available in all sizes, including adult (we have a men and women cut), youth, and infants! All shirts fit true to size and all of our adult and children’s shirts are from Ascolour, a high quality t-shirt manufacturer from New Zealand. Trust me, you’ll notice the shirt quality!

We also have a small number of our previous designs left too, so make sure you get those as well before they’re completely gone!

All proceeds from the sales of our shirts go directly towards enabling the Baha’i Blog team to continue creating awesome Baha’i-inspired content.

Go to the Baha’i Blog Shop to check out our designs and purchase your shirts!

Thank you for your support!

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Categories: Bahá'í Blogs

How Youth Can Move the World

Baha'i - Wed, 12/26/2018 - 10:00am

When I was in fifth grade, a family friend invited me to come check out a group for kids, an interfaith circle for ages 10 through 14. It sounded interesting...

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Categories: Bahá'í Blogs

Memento Mori and How Baha’is View Death

Baha'i - Wed, 12/26/2018 - 8:00am

What if thinking about death wasn’t a scary, overwhelming thought, but one that informed how we live and the choices we make every day? I’ve often had a hard time...

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What Would Jesus Say Today?

Baha'i - Tue, 12/25/2018 - 10:00am

If Jesus Christ returned today, what would he say? What more could he say—would there be a new Gospel, a new New Testament, or a new Bible? Would Christ, on his...

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A Father’s Blessing: How I Became a Baha’i

Baha'i - Tue, 12/25/2018 - 8:00am

My dad passed from this world in 1985—and now I’m older than my father at the time of his death. In his younger years, his alcoholism and erratic behavior affected...

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The Power of Friendship to Reveal Your Soul

Baha'i - Mon, 12/24/2018 - 10:00am

Lately I’ve tried to think more intentionally and carefully about how I expend my energy—almost like conducting an energy inventory of sorts. This reflection has made me pay more attention...

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Our Planet, Crying Out for Unity

Baha'i - Mon, 12/24/2018 - 8:00am

Baha’u’llah, in one of his lyrical writings known as The Fire Tablet, described the conditions in the world this way: Indeed the hearts of the sincere are consumed in the...

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How O.Z. Whitehead Left Stardom for Spirituality

Baha'i - Sun, 12/23/2018 - 9:50am

Would you leave the life of a successful Hollywood and Broadway star to devote your days to a life of the spirit? O. Z. Whitehead did. Welcome to Uplifting the...

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On Migration, Baha’is See Need for Cooperation, Focus on Root Causes

Baha'i - Sun, 12/23/2018 - 8:00am

More than a quarter billion people have left their home countries in search of a viable future elsewhere. Those migrants have no choice but to flee war, violence, and persecution,...

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1844: A New Book About Prophecy and the Baha’i Faith

Baha'i Blog - Sat, 12/22/2018 - 6:13pm

Eileen Maddocks has written a book called 1844: Convergence in Prophecy for Judaism, Christianity, Islam and the Baha’i FaithI love the title as I think it succinctly describes the prophetic mysteries it explores.

I have never written a book but I think it’s a fantastic achievement. I was eager to hear from Eileen about the process of putting this book together and was grateful when she offered to share her thoughts and experiences. If you’re interested in self-publishing a Baha’i-inspired book, you might find her comments particularly helpful!

Baha’i Blog: Can you tell us a little about yourself?

What in the world happened in 1844? It was a year of intense expectation and then disappointment in the West, and of intense searching and then Divine Revelation in the East.

Over a century later I was a late bloomer, so to speak––late to the Faith (declared in my mid-forties) and late to research and writing. But serving at the Baha’i World Centre for 16 years later in life was an incomparable education that defined the rest of my life. When I retired from the World Centre and settled in Burlington, Vermont, writing and editing beckoned me and another career path evolved.

Editing, research, and writing are lonely work. I have balanced this cerebral and lonely aspect of my life with a serious study of ballet and I dance with Ballet Vermont in its production of Farm to Ballet, a full-length classical ballet that portrays life on a Vermont farm from spring through autumn. The performances are given at various farm venues for large audiences and raise money for various agricultural and land conservation endeavors.

Baha’i Blog: What inspired you to put this book together?

I was drawn to a study of Millerism because I am a descendant of the Millerites, the followers of William Miller who dated the literal return of Christ through Daniel 8:14: “It will take 2,300 evenings and mornings; then the sanctuary will be reconsecrated.” My maternal grandfather was an Advent Christian who believed that the return was imminent. The Advent Christian Church formed after the Great Disappointment of 1844, when Christ did not return as expected. My mother became a mainstream Protestant, but I remember her stories about the Adventist camp meetings of her childhood and the beliefs of her father. She was also a Bible student and passed that interest to me.

Author Eileen Maddocks

This book was almost an accident of circumstances because I had been working on a major project for a long time. However, I had written a series of articles about Millerism for the website “The Miller Prediction”, a feature film produced by Cyrus Parvini. Millerism was the religious phenomenon of the 1830s and 1840s that emerged in the northeast United States and Europe. It was part of what historians call the Second Great Awakening, a Protestant religious revival during the nineteenth century. A friend read the articles and said, “Eileen, you have a book here!” So I put the other project aside for a much needed rest and went to work on fleshing out the articles into this book, 1844: Convergence in Prophecy for Judaism, Christianity, Islam, and the Baha’i Faith.

Baha’i Blog: What was the process like to put this work together?

Most writers will admit that writing can be a masochistic slog. Overwhelming these feelings at times, though, is what I call “the tunnel,” a creative state of retreat, with soft music playing and the cats napping, when I feel happy, almost ecstatic, as I work and make breakthroughs in my research and writing. The essence or my writing process is vision––the final product and its contribution to teaching the Faith.

I was always striving for the balance between writing for Baha’is and for a general readership. My goal was to help Baha’is learn more about the Faith and to attract general readers to the Faith.

Every author must decide whether to search for a traditional publisher or to self-publish. I decided to self-publish. Today almost half of the books in the market place are self-published, and the number of self-published print books and ebooks surpassed one million in 2017, with nonfiction titles leading fiction.

Self-publishing involved hours of watching webinars to learn how to self-publish. (I recommend the Author Learning Center, and New Shelves with Amy Collins). Then one follows directions and goes through the process––obtain the copyright, buy the ISBNs, get your PCIP (the information on the back side of the title page), find an excellent editor and listen to him/her, submit the manuscript for Baha’i review (and pass the review), find an excellent graphic designer and interior designer, find author friends to provide short reviews for the back cover, obtain Mobi and epub versions for the ebook market, upload print and ebook versions to Amazon, and submit to other distributors. This is an abbreviated list of what it takes to self-publish. I’ll skip the hours of frustration I experienced during my self-publishing adventure.

However, I am preparing a talk with a PowerPoint presentation, “So You Want to Write a Baha’i Book? – Traditional and Self-Publishing Routes,” that I plan to present when I go on the road in 2019.

Baha’i Blog: What’s something that you learned during the process of putting this book together?

I learned to listen to moments of inspiration that come to every Baha’i who is serving the Faith. Nothing prepared me for the eventuality that, amazingly, 1844: Convergence in Prophecy went to market about the same time that the film The Gate did. Talk about divine synergy! This was a “convergence” that I never could have imagined that has promoted sales of my book.

My first market is the Baha’i niche market, and I am happy to report that the book is selling well on Amazon and in the Baha’i niche market. The second market is mass distribution, and I will soon place the book with a mass marketer to expand its availability.

Baha’i Blog: What do you hope people will take away from this book?

I hope that Baha’is will not only learn more about their history but will also pass this book along to their friends.

Baha’i Blog: Thank you so much, Eileen, for sharing this with us! You can purchase ‘1844: Convergence of Prophecy for Judaism, Christianity, Islam and the Baha’i Faith’ here on Amazon.

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