Collection 1

November 7, 2018

At the Prison Gates

'Abdu'l-Rahim was a fanatical Muslim. He was alarmed. The Baha'i Faith was growing in his town in Persia and he decided that it was time to ask the advice of a Muslim clergyman. Being a fanatic, as many were, the clergyman assured 'Abdu'l-Rahim that to kill the Baha'is would certainly please God.  

'Abdu'l-Rahim then decided that he would kill some Baha'is. Not only would he rid the world of these infidels, he thought, but he'd gain a place in heaven as well. So, one day he armed himself with a weapon and went to confront an older believer whose name was Haji Bábá.  

"I've come to kill you, Haji Bábá, because you are a Baha'i. You are a disgrace to Islam!"  

To 'Abdu'l-Rahim’s surprise Haji Bábá did not seem the least upset. Instead he replied calmly and lovingly. It was certainly not what 'Abdu'l-Rahim’s expected. He wanted to kill at least one Baha'i, but instead he found himself listening to the words of the old man. Quite against his will, 'Abdu'l-Rahim became interested.  

After a while, Haji Bábá took 'Abdu'l-Rahim to a meeting. It was in the house of Mulla Husayn's sister. (Perhaps you remember that Mulla Husayn was the first to believe in the Báb.) You have been to firesides I suppose? Well, this one lasted one day and one night! At the end of this meeting, 'Abdu'l-Rahim was not only a Baha'i, but a Baha'i who was on fire with the love of God. He was so charged that he could no longer bear to stay in his town. He had learned that the Manifestation of God, God's Prophet for this age, was actually on this earth and 'Abdu'l-Rahim longed to see His Face.  

'Abdu'l-Rahim set out for the prison of Akka on foot. He walked weary miles on foot. He walked weary miles with a glad heart. He walked through cold and heat, rain and snow. He walked for six months. Finally, he arrived at the city of his heart, the dusty, parched city of Akka, where God had placed His Most Glorious Treasure, Baha'u'llah.  

Unfortunately, 'Abdu'l-Rahim arrived in the early days of Baha'u'llah's imprisonment. The gates were watched carefully and anyone suspected of being a Baha'i was turned away. Outside the city 'Abdu'l-Rahim met the celebrated, long suffering Nabil, who many times had tried to get in to catch a glimpse of that Beloved Face. But Nabil had failed and was patiently waiting for a time when he might enter.

August 15, 2018

Stranger in the Mountains

Background:
[Baha'u’llah left Baghdad to travel alone in the mountains of Kurdistan for two years. He did not tell anyone there who He was. There were others in Baghdad who wanted people to believe that they were the Promised One. Baha'u’llah left so that He would not hurt even the ones who wanted to be His enemies. You can read about His journey in ‘God Passes By’, by Shoghi Effendi, pp. 120-126, or in Baha’u’llah: The King of Glory, by H. M. Balyuzi, pp. 115-122. Here is a story from that time.]

Story:
The boy was sitting on the hillside crying bitterly. He could see the mountain village below which was his home. He wanted to go home but was afraid. He had been punished at school and would be punished again at home. So instead, he ran to the hills and cried.

A stranger, who did not live in the village, heard his crying. Coming closer the stranger asked the boy why he was crying. The boy looked up. There, coming toward him, was a dervish, a man without a home who spent his days wandering the countryside praying and thinking about God.

The boy answered, "Oh, sir, my teacher has punished me for writing so badly. I can't write nicely and now I've lost the lesson he gave me to copy. I can't go back to school without it or I will be punished even more. And I can't go home for my parents will be ashamed."

Then the boy began to cry some more. The stranger gently asked him to stop crying. He then offered to write a lesson and to teach the boy to copy it so that his teacher would be proud of him.

From his clothes the stranger took out a pen and paper and wrote beautiful letters. Then he showed the boy how to copy them. The boy copied the writing again and again. After a time he could do it so well you could hardly tell the difference between one writing and the other.

May 16, 2018

Being Good and…

Elizabeth was a Good Girl. Everybody said so. Grandpa David said she was his Little Princess; Mummy said she was Good as Gold; and even Mr. Barkowski, the mailman, said she was the Perfect Child. Everybody said she must be so happy to be so good. And when her Grandma Molly asked, “Are you sure?” they all said, “Of course...”

For when she came to dinner she ate everything on her plate, even the sauerkraut. Heaven knows she never spilled her milk or had grease spots on her dress. She said please and thank you nicely and wouldn’t think of asking for seconds of dessert.

At school she was the Perfect Student. She did lovely sums and wrote ever-so-neatly. She never wiggled in her seat or spoke out-of-turn. Her teacher said she was a Little Angel.

When she went out to play she was Always Good. She didn’t get mud on her slippers and she was never rowdy. She always put her toys away. And when she stumbled and scratched her knee, not one tear appeared; she was so Brave.

But that was before Billie Sue. Billie Sue was Bad.

Elizabeth knew for sure Billie Sue was Bad. You could hear her racing down the street from a block away, she tooted her bicycle horn so. Her hair always flew out of her pony-tail in curly wisps and her knees were permanently green from grass stains. In school she always shouted “I know; I know!” before their teacher even hinted at the question, and her homework, though it was always in on time, was smeared with doggie paw-prints, melted popsicles, or last night’s spaghetti sauce.

February 16, 2018

Giving one’s material possessions for the sake of God

The following story, though it uses characters created by the author, is based on actual events in Yazd, Iran, in 1982.

In a little Persian town named Yazd, in a simple house on a narrow street, lived a man named Abbas. Every day, when it was time for his prayers, Abbas would go into his small garden, spread his rug, and offer thanks to Baha'u'llah for all his blessings.

For Abbas believed he had received many blessings. He had a fine house, though small, a good wife, a fine son, and a lovely daughter. What's more, Abbas had gifted hands. He was a carpenter and woodwright and, after he saw a chest or table or chair in his mind's eye, he could transform a pile of rough lumber into miracles. Every chair wrought by his hands was sought after by his neighbors and customers, tor it was sure to be sturdy, smooth as silk, and best of all, comfortable. Though he was not a rich man, Abbas' neighbors counted him as wealthy for the beautiful pieces of furniture, wrought by his own hand and carved with flowers and birds, even inlaid with mosaic made of ivory and teak, which filled his home. His work was truly his worship, for Abbas sought to glorify his Creator with each piece of furniture, and each chair or cabinet was like one of his own children, born of his love for the potential in the wood.

Abbas was a thrifty man, and he was steadily increasing his savings. Every payment he received for his work, he divided in three - one part for his family's needs, one part for God, and one part for his savings. His savings were there to protect against illness or misfortune and, if God was gracious, would someday be enough for him to make a pilgrimage to the Shrines of the Báb and Bahá'u’lláh in the Holy Land. This was Abbas' most heartfelt wish - to be able to make that journey with his wife and children.

January 19, 2018

Saving Stars

“Wow! That was some storm last night, Laura,” Kevin said as he kicked aside a broken piece of driftwood. He shielded his eyes against the bright sun. “Look at all of this junk that washed up on the beach.”

Laura bent down to pick up one half of a shiny clam shell. “I’ve never seen so much seaweed on land before,” she exclaimed. “There are shells, bottles, cork floats and driftwood everywhere. I feel as if I’m on a treasure hunt.”

“A smelly treasure hunt,” Kevin commented. He wrinkled his nose. “There must be some dead fish up ahead.”

“Let’s climb over the rocks on the point and check out the cove,” Laura suggested. “Maybe we’ll find out where the smell is coming from.”

Kevin and Laura picked their way around the objects on the beach. Wet sand crunched beneath their shoes. Beside them the blue-green ocean lapped gently at the shore as the tide continued to go out. Except for the mess on the beach, no one would have guessed that a huge summer storm had blown in and out just the night before.

They climbed carefully over the rocks and rounded the bend into the hidden cove.

Suddenly Laura stopped. “I can’t believe it!”

“No wonder!” Kevin added. “Dead fish. Thousands of them!”

“Those aren’t fish,” Laura said. “They’re sea stars! And, there are so many of them. They must have washed up on shore during the storm. Without water, they’ll all die!”

November 15, 2017

Thank you, Isfandiyar

When I was growing up, Halloween* was a great time, even for a kid in a wheelchair. I was actually famous in my neighborhood because I had the coolest homemade Halloween costumes - like one time I was a haunted semi-truck rolling along with headlights flashing wildly and scary sounds playing. Another year I was a soda machine that dispensed real (empty) soda cans! I think my favorite costume was when I was a washing machine and Dad recorded sounds of the big laundry downtown and I played those and flipped my lid. My most memorable Halloween, though , was the year I was a witch with long rubber worms for hair. It wasn't so much the costume - but that year was especially memorable because I met Isfandiyar.

Isfandfyar - yes, that was his amazing name - was my first real friend, and he truly changed my life. But, I should slow down with the story because I'm getting ahead of myself.

In our neighborhood, I knew most of the people, and everything was fine. So, most years, I'd go out by myself and I'd roll up to the door or porch and shout "TRICK OR TREAT!" like any other kid. But the really memorable year, things didn't go exactly like always. That year, I ran into some bullies stealing candy bags away from other kids. There were three of them, and they just stepped out of the dark when I was alone.

"Well, lookie here - a witch in a wheelchair! Ooooh, I am soooo scared."

"Hey, witchie, if you're so powerful, why don't you heal yourself?"

"Yeah, you must be a fake witch . .. let's see if you can stop me from taking your candy!"

September 10, 2017

Father of the Poor

Before Mirza Husayn-'Ali was called Baha'u'llah, before He was known as the Promised One of God, He was called by another title: "Father of the Poor." Mirza Husayn-'Ali was born into a wealthy family. His father was a mirza, a nobleman, who was so respected for his talents, wisdom, generosity, and courage that the Shah gave him the title "Buzurg," meaning "the great one," and made him governor.

Mirza Buzurg owned a vast estate, and many peasants worked the land and tended his livestock for him. Often young Mirza Husayn-'Ali walked or rode His horse through the countryside, stopping to speak with the peasants and learn about their lives and troubles. Believing that He would one day rule the estate, the peasants watched Him as He grew and were no doubt comforted by the understanding Mirza Husayn-'Ali showed.

When He was nearly eighteen, Mirza Husayn- Ali married Asiyih Khanum, the daughter of another wealthy nobleman. Asiyih Khanum had everything a young woman in Persia could hope to have. She was tall and beautiful, wise, gentle, and kind. The young couple started their life together with great wealth and comfort. A jeweler worked for six months fashioning her jewels, even creating gold buttons studded with gems for her clothing. Forty mules carried Asiyih Khanum's belongings to her new home. The couple would, everyone thought, enjoy a grand life of power and luxury, filled with parties and important ceremonies.

August 16, 2017

The Badasht Conference

It was the summer of 1848. The followers of the Báb, the Bábís, were fiercely persecuted in Persia, the birthplace of their Faith. They needed guidance and support. Bahá'u'lláh, Who, at that time, was a directing force among the Bábís, decided to meet with His fellow believers. A group of them gathered in the small village of Badasht in northern Persia.

Upon His arrival, Bahá'u'lláh rented three gardens, one for Quddús, another for Táhirih, and the third one for Himself. The main purpose of this gathering of Bábís, known as the Badasht Conference, was to consult about the future of the Bábí Faith. Tents were put up in the three gardens to house the eighty-one Bábís who had gathered at this most important event. From the day they arrived to the day they left, for twenty-two days, they were all the guests of Bahá'u'lláh.

Every day, Bahá'u'lláh revealed a new Tablet, which was chanted every morning in this memorable gathering of Bábís. Through these Tablets, Bahá'u'lláh discarded one after another of the established traditions of the past. The Bábís were dismayed as they saw the ways they had worshiped, and many of the teachings they had followed for so long, changed and discarded.

Baha'u'llah bestowed a new name on every believer at Badasht without disclosing the identity of the person who had given those names. From this time on, He became known as "Bahá" (Glory), Quddús (the Most Holy) gained his title, and Táhirih (the Pure One).

The Bábís were in awe. They did not know the source of all these Revelations. They wondered: Who wrote the Tablets? Who gave them the new names? Some were guessing, each one to his own degree of understanding. Very few, if any, thought Bahá'u'lláh was the author of the changes that were so fearlessly introduced.

July 17, 2017

Koae

In the heart of the Pacific Ocean are some beautiful islands - points of green that arise from the dark blue depths. One of these islands is called Oahu which in Hawaiian means "the gathering place". It is well named for it is the home of many.

Among the people that lived on Oahu in times long past was an old man named Koae and his grandson Keola. Koae was a kahuna, a man of God, whose wisdom and love for others was well known. Koae loved many things - the sparkling curtains of rain falling on the dark green mountain valleys, and the roar of the rollers breaking over the reef, the bright orange and red hibiscus blossoms that framed the still brighter smiles of the graceful island women, and the sound of drums and chanting on quiet moonlit nights.

Most of all, Koae loved to sit on the beach with his grandson Keola, and as the sun set he would tell stories of long ago - stories that had been told by his grandfather and his grandfather before him.

The sun had dropped below the horizon, that distant place where sea and sky meet, but its rays still pierced the ocean's edges with beams of orange and crimson light.

"Look, my son," said Koae, pointing out beyond the reef. "It is Koae, the tropic bird, coming home from the sea. It is for him that I am named."

"Grandfather, please tell me of Koae," said Keola.

June 14, 2017

‘Abdu’l-Baha - the Knight of Light

When you stand in the gardens at Mazra'ih near 'Akka, you can see the mountains that hold the Druze village of Abu-Sinan, where the Baha'is of the Holy Land lived during the most dangerous times of World War I.

During this war, the British and the Turks were fighting to control the Holy Land. Because the enemies of the Faith had spread lies about the Baha'is to the Turkish military leader, Jamal Pasha, he had sworn to crucify 'Abdu'l-Baha and His family upon his return to Haifa. So 'Abdu'l-Baha moved the Baha’is and His family to the village of Abu-Sinan.

But He Himself had work to do. So, with Haji MIrza Haydar 'AIi, a courageous soul who feared nothing but the displeasure of God, He returned to Haifa. As it was impossible for 'Abdu'l-Baha to continue his correspondence with Baha'i's all over the world - there was no mail in or out of Haifa, and no pilgrims could travel to the war zone - He returned His energies to trying to ease the sufferings of the people of Haifa and 'Akka.

The oppression of the Turks and a plague of locusts had caused local famine, so in the tremendous heat of the season (which was enough to take one's breath away!), 'Abdu'l-Baha traveled to Tiberias [about 30 miles to Haifa] and supervised the raising of wheat on the fertile land around the Sea of Galilee. He maintained a system of distributing the wheat to the people of Haifa and 'Akka, arranged for its transport by camel, and devoted His time to caring for the victims of the war.

May 18, 2017

Attributes of God

Mr. Bustard took a triangular shaped bar of glass from his briefcase. “Does anyone know what this is?" he asked as the four children in his class examined it.

“Is it a mirror?" asked Anisa.

“No, it's not a mirror;” replied Mr. Bustard.

“It's a paperweight,” answered Nabil.

“No, it's not that. Do you have any idea what it is, Phillip or Sarah?"

They both shook their heads.

“This is called a prism. Can anyone guess what a prism does?"

Phillip raised his hand. “A prism is where they put people who break the law,” He giggled at his joke.

Mr. Bustard laughed too. “That's very funny, Phillip, but that's a ‘prison' not a ‘prism'." He spoke the two words distinctly so the children could hear the different sound. “A prism is used to separate light into different colors. Did you know that the light coming from this lamp contains all the colors of the rainbow?” He positioned the prism near the lamp and tilted it so it caught a ray of light. A rainbow of colors suddenly appeared on the opposite side. He held up a piece of white cardboard on which to reflect the different colors. The children were fascinated.

April 13, 2017

Baha'u'llah and the Money Belt

Baha'u'llah had sent my father and his friends to Egypt as pioneer settlers. When they arrived in Egypt, they did not have much money. Money was not in abundance among the Baha'is. For one thing, it was taken away from them and they were persecuted. For example, my grandfather was a rich man when he became a Babi, but all he had was seized. Not having money did not stop my father from pioneering. He and the others got notions - spools of thread, needles, thimbles, ribbons - and they went to the European homes up and down the Mediterranean coast from Alexandria to Ramleh, like peddlers. People invited them in and bought those things. My father became very popular. He was honest, as were all the Baha'is. People were not used to that. And so the pioneers became famous. People told their friends about them, and gradually they prospered. They would meet at the end of the day and pool their resources, put their money together, and work in a truly Baha'i fashion.

Before too long they had enough capital to open a store. They called themselves the "Sociét Ruhaniyyih”, meaning "Spiritual Company,'' and the store, the "Grand Bazar Persan.” It became bigger and bigger until it was the largest and best department store in all of Egypt. The Faith had prospered also, in spite of the restrictions, and was well established in Alexandria, Cairo, and Port Said.

My father and his friends wanted to show their gratitude to Baha'u'llah and also help the Faith. So they took a wide belt, a money belt, stuffed it with gold, large gold coins, and sent it to Baha'u'llah. A tablet was received from Baha'u1lah expressing His appreciation.

March 27, 2017

Arty from the Arctic

The snowman stood there, glistening in the pale sunlight. This was a masterpiece, this snowman. Uncle George had helped them. Benny gave it a final pat and stood back to inspect their work.

“This is the best snowman we ever made,” he said, clapping the snow off his gloves.

“You know, I think it really is,” said David. “What shall we call him this year?”

“Frosty,” yelled little Susie.

“We want something a bit more original than that,” replied David. “Now let me think.”

“I know, Arctic. Yes, Arty from the Arctic,” said Benny.

“Oh yes,” squealed Susie. “That’s a lovely name for him, Mr. Arty Arctic.”

“I hereby christen you Arty from the Arctic. There, it’s official now,” declared David.

March 16, 2017

The Letter of Certainty

"Grandpa, tell me how the Kitáb-i-Iqán was written," Justice Ray said to his grandfather one afternoon during his grandfather's visit.

"Do you have your schoolwork done?"
"Almost." A few minutes later he reappeared. "I'm done now.” 

"Okay. First, you need to tell me the three people who were involved."

"The Báb, His uncle, and Bahá'u'lláh," Justice remembered.

"What did the Báb do?"

"He said He was a Messenger of God. And a lot of people didn't like that. They had their own ideas of Who a Messenger of God should be."

"What did the uncle do?"

"He was confused, so he wrote to Bahá'u'lláh," replied Justice.

"And..." prompted his grandfather.

"And Bahá'u'lláh revealed the Kitáb-i-Iqán," Justice finished proudly.

March 7, 2017

Flowers for the Ancient King

Once Baha'u'llah had passed from this earthly realm, there remained at least one special way to honor Him. 'Abdu'l-Baha grieved for His Father. He was burdened by the affairs of the infant Baha'i Faith as well. Yet, He found a way to beautify His Father's Shrine outside of ‘Akka. It was not easy in that semi-arid land where the desert always lurks, waiting for a chance to reclaim the land. 

Focused and determined, ‘Abdu'l-Baha made a flower garden for Baha'u'llah.It adorned the path to the Shrine next to the mansion of Bahji. Many, many times He filled His cloak with fresh, fertile soil. Then He gathered up its corners, swung it onto His strong shoulder, and paced steadily to the appointed place. There He dropped His heavy load and spread the precious soil into place.

Then ‘Abdu'l-Baha carefully planted the flowers in a perfect arrangement of color and fragrance. It was a good way to honor the spirit of the Ancient King Who so loved the natural world, particularly flowers.

February 26, 2017

Happy Holidays!

"Happy Easter, Carla!"

Rosemary called to her friend in the hallway as she entered the classroom. "Happy Naw-Ruz everyone!"

The members of the New Era Baha'i Club looked up from their lunches. Everyone smiled. 

"Happy Naw-Ruz to you, too, Rosemary," Michael said. "Come join us."

The New Era Baha'i Club was having its regular lunch meeting. Every day kids from all different religions and races got together to talk, to plan Unity Fairs, to make plans and to consult about problems. Rosemary looked around the room at the diverse faces. Michael was white, Desiree was black, Juana and Julia were twins from Mexico. Jason was Asian, Mas'ud was from Africa and there was a new boy.

"Hi, I'm Rosemary," she said. "What holiday are you celebrating this time of year?"

"This is my new friend, Marty," Michael said, introducing them.

"I'm Jewish," Marty said. "So I'm celebrating Purim this time of year."

November 15, 2016

An Amazing Night

All the Bahá'ís of 'Akka knew that Bahá'u'lláh would soon move from His home in 'Akka to the Mansion of Bahji out in the country. His family was already there, making everything ready for Him. On the night that Bahá'u'lláh was actually to move, Two Bahá'ís, Nabil and Hájí Muhammad Táhir, were sitting by their window in 'Akka waiting for Bahá'u'lláh to pass by. They treasured every glimpse of Him. When they saw Bahá'u'lláh riding by on His white donkey, they decided to follow Him to the Mansion of Bahjí, circumambulate it, and then walk back home.

To circumambulate means to walk around something. Bahá'ís often circumambulate the holy places where Bahá'u'lláh has lived, saying prayers as they walk. It is a sign of their love for Bahá'u'lláh.

Nabil and Hájí Muhammad Táhir followed quietly about fifty steps behind Bahá'u'lláh all the way to Bahjí. When Bahá'u'lláh went inside the Mansion, they came closer so they could walk on the footpaths close to the Mansion's walls. They were amazed to see that the footpaths on all four sides of the Mansion were crowded with people. They could hear their breathing and their low voices. They could not get close to the Mansion but had to walk in the muddy wheat fields surrounding it as they prayerfully circumambulated Bahá'u'lláh's new home.

September 12, 2016

Sacred Moments with Grandpa

"Grandpa," Brently's imploring 7-year-old eyes looked panicked. Brently trudged from his two-story house across the dry lawn to Grandpa Burrell's porch. Burrell was a porch-sitter whenever the chores were done and the weather allowed it. He held his arms out to his favorite grandson.

"What'sa matter, son?" Grandpa knew the answer even before asking. Brently's asthma-strained breaths could be heard before he'd left his own porch 20 yards away. The child often sought comfort in Grandpa's lap during attacks.

"It's bad, Grandpa," Brently wheezed, climbing onto Grandpa Burrell. The Kansas sky was vividly blue with just a few clouds, the temperature in the nineties; this was harvest weather - hot, dry, and breezy - bringing asthmatic people like Brently a heap of trouble.

Brently's long brown legs reached the ground as he draped himself over Grandpa. He smelled the familiar smells of being on Grandpa's lap: peppermints and pipe tobacco. These were his favorite smells because he so loved his Grandpa.

August 22, 2016

Humble Mouse Meets the First Ray of Sun

Humble Mouse is small and quiet, but she searches for answers to big questions. She often gazes at the sky and wonders, "Where do stars come from? Why are they so bright?" Humble Mouse wants to learn everything about the never-ending forest in which she lives, and about the mountain she climbs when the sun comes out. The sun - she is most curious about the sun, and the rays of light that shine from it.

"Where do all of these things come from?" she asks her friends.

"Humph!" snorts Gruff Bear, when Humble Mouse asks him this big question.

"Why would I need to know that?" Gruff Bear continues. "All I need to know is which berries are tasty, which make me sick, and where I should sleep in winter. Go away now, and stop thinking about silly things." 

Every morning, Humble Mouse wakes up excitedly in her home, which is nestled in the trunk of an old pine tree. Eagerly, she scurries up her tree and plops herself on a thick branch, where she waits to meet the first ray of sun.

She remembers what her Grandmother shared with her before she passed away. "She told me that if I sit quietly and look closely, I can meet the first ray of sun, and it will give me answers to my questions!"