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Here you will find articles on spiritual themes common to all religions and cultures. For the month of November (2017) Niki has accepted the #bahaiblogging challenge (one post per day). The posts are repeated on FaceBook. Visit Niki on FaceBook (www.facebook.com/nicola.g.daniels/) to comment and interact with the Blog.

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Divine Sense of Humor?

Posted on November 8, 2017 at 8:15 AM Comments comments (1)

Day 7 of #bahaiblogging


Yes, I am running a day late, but not stressing over it. I started to write a piece about 'Abdu'l-Baha, son of Baha'u'llah, because on Day 6 I reflected on how a smile is like the sun, which led to me remembering 'Abdu'l-Baha once said to a group of people in New York: "I want you to be happy... to laugh, smile and rejoice in order that others may be made happy by you." He then said "I will pray for you." :D

So, I thought I'd write about 'Abdu'l-Baha's 'sense of humor' which has been written about before. Here's a web page with a piece about that, starting out with a joke he used to tell about the sad fate of a Muslim, a Christian and a Jew on a boat in a storm, which you might like. bahai-library.com/ballenger_master_humorist.

The author of the piece claims that 'Abdu'l-Baha (who was called 'Master' although his name, which he claimed as his true name, means "servant") had a sense of humor that was downplayed by most biographers and essayists. One can imagine why. He, after all, was the son of Baha'u'llah. Should he not be completely and utterly engaged in convincing others to support the Cause of God, and to turn to Baha'u'llah's Teachings because Baha'u'llah (meaning Glory of God) is the mouthpiece of God for this Age of Enlightenment and Unity?

One reason I can think of is that there's a real danger in becoming too caught up in your own personal contribution to saving the planet... Muslims have a word for that. I am not sure what the word is, but it translates to something like 'trying to become partners with God.' I can just imagine the group of earnest people at 309 West Seventy-eighth Street, New York, eager to hear the words of 'Abdu'l-Baha. I wonder if they laughed at his closing words? Did he say 'I will pray for you' with a meaningful lilt?

It was a book largely about the transforming effect 'Abdu'l-Baha had on a Unitarian Minister (Howard Colby Ives) that turned the light on in my heart for Baha'u'llah. It is called Portals to Freedom. Stephen Fuqua reviewed it 5 years ago on my birthday, here: www.safnet.com/archives/2012/07/portals-to-freedom-by-howard-colby-ives.html.

Here's my tribute to the Master, in the words of the Indigo Girls, from the song 'Closer To Fine':

"...the best thing you've ever done for me
is to help me take my life less seriously.
It's only life after all."




You might also like God Loves Laughtera biography of Baha'i 'Hand of the Cause of God' William Sears (who was born on my daughter's birthday, a coincidence which freaked me out when I read it).


Peace! Niki

smile like the sun

Posted on November 6, 2017 at 7:25 AM Comments comments (0)

Day 6 of #bahaiblogging
(Day 4 and Day 5 are in one post)


I fear I might be sounding a little preachy so far, but I feel I needed to lay the groundwork so I could say how this new knowledge or blueprint for our relationship with God and with God's Messengers - those who founded the religions throughout the world - works. WIth this new understanding, a number of questions I have had about life, the universe and everything are now resolved. Here's what I mean. (Please note these are my own understandings from personal reflection, and not necessarily Baha'i Teachings, though the analogy of the mirror is a Baha'i Teaching and you can find the original version here: Some Answered Questions, Chapter 37: The Connection Between God and His Manifestations.


Q.  What does it mean to 'turn to God'? Isn't God everywhere, in everything? Where do I 'turn' to find God?

A.  Turning to God means I look into the Mirrors of God. That includes Jesus and Buddha, Mohammed and Krishna, and lately, Baha'u'llah. It means reading and meditating on Their Teachings and following in Their footsteps (practicing the things they did to reflect God's Light).


Q.  Why did they call Jesus the Word in the Bible?

A.  Words are one of 2 major ways how God's Messengers reflect the Light of God to us. (The way they live their lives is the other.) Although "divine things are too deep to be expressed by words" the Messengers of God were all divinely inspired with words that have reached the hearts of people even across the ages.


Q.  Which Messenger of God should I follow?

A.  Which Sun is the Mirror reflecting? There's only one Sun, and only one God. "All scripture" (All Words from God, through God's Messengers) "is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousnes" - 2 Timothy 3:16, New English Translation.


Lastly, I woke up this morning thinking about the smiling faces in the film Light to the World which was released last month to mark the bicentenary of Baha'u'llah's birth. Religion isn't all about words. It's about living a life of purpose (and true happiness). Those smiling faces were directly reflecting the Light of God, without having to say a mumblin' word. You can find the film here: www.bahai.org/light-to-the-world/


Peace, Niki










mirrors of divinity

Posted on November 5, 2017 at 5:35 PM Comments comments (0)

Day 4 of #bahaiblogging


In high school and college one of my favorite activities was 'going back to first principles'. Some of the teachings of Baha'u'llah are like that - basic yet profound principles which solve a number of problems at once. The principle or analogy I will share today is that of the mirror.


I've talked about the 'problem' or mystery of how an infinite God could 'come down' to earth and walk among men and women. It is still a mystery, but with this analogy of the mirror I am able to understand the principle.


Think of the sun. It is not infinite, but compared to a human being it practically is. It would not be possible for the sun to swoop down to earth and exist inside of a person. But, if you had a nice clean mirror, and your eyes were able to stand looking at the sun's reflection, you could point to the mirror and say look, there's the sun. THAT is what the sun looks like.



Day 5 of #bahaiblogging

In this analogy, the sun represents God. The pure clear mirror is the heart of the man Jesus. The rays of the sun represent the Holy Spirit, the very nature of God, the 'Christ' in Christ Jesus, and the Word that John said was 'with God in the beginning, and was God.'


This is how Jesus could rightly claim that if you see me, you see my father/God.


Yet, at no time is the sun actually contained within the mirror. When the mirror is shattered and can no longer reflect the sun, the sun is not dead. Therefore Christ lives, and did not die on the cross.


Now a mirror is a finite thing, meaning that there can be more than one of them. To some extent, each of us can reflect the qualities or attributes of God. Using Christ as an example - that is, hearing and living by His teachings - we reflect God or the Holy spirit, and 'magnify' that Spirit in the world.


But for most people or most mirrors, the reflection is incomplete. Only a few very pure and perfectly clear mirrors have existed throughout human history. Their purpose or mission is to advance our understanding of ourselves as spiritual beings.


These mirrors of divinity are not at odds or in competition with each other.

(To be continued - see Day 5)


trinity

Posted on November 3, 2017 at 10:40 AM Comments comments (0)

day #3 of #bahaiblogging


On the third 'day,' according to the biblical book of Genesis, the earth and the seas were created. The number three is important because with three numbers one can describe the position of an item in three dimensional space. 



Just as the 3rd dimension allows an object to 'escape' the flat, two-dimensional plane, the number 3 has been traditionally identified as a number associated with creativity. On the spiritual plane I also think of it as a symbol of freedom of will.


To commemorate day three of #bahaiblogging I have made some lists, in sets of three, of topics I will attempt to blog about in the coming weeks. 


Three virtues

Three parables (biblical) 

Three analogies that help explain Baha'i principles (suggestions: principles of progressive revelation, of the oneness of humankind, and of the equality of women and men)

The three 'central figures' of the Baha'i Faith (The Bab, Baha'u'llah and 'Abdu'l-Baha)

Three stories about The Bab

Three stories about Baha'u'llah

Three stories about 'Abdul-Baha


That makes 21 Posts, which will cover at least 3 weeks. Thank you for staying with me on this journey.


Peace and Love, Niki


finity

Posted on November 3, 2017 at 12:40 AM Comments comments (0)

Day 2 of #bahaiblogging


Today I had the smart but completely un-original idea to blog about my favorite authors, because yesterday was National Authors Day. Then I realized the day is dubbed 'National Author's Day' (note the apostrophe) and I wondered if that meant I had to pick a single author out of all the authors I have read and loved. That would be difficult.


Then, an even more difficult factor intruded into my blog-head. Our older dog, Katie, is dying and will be put to sleep today


One of my favorite characters, Odd Thomas (from Dean Koontz's Odd Thomas series) would know what to say at this point, but I don't. Dean Koontz is known for writing stories with dogs in them. Good, brave, wonderful dogs. Even dogs who have passed on from this plane, and come back as ghosts (who Odd Thomas, being definitively odd, can see). These ghosts don't (can't) speak, which is a bit of literary genius in my opinion. How can the finite imagine what a being from the infinite (or even less finite) plane would say or do?


The ability to imagine what an odd character (i.e. not an autobiographical one) would say or do is what I am celebrating belatedly today. Jodie Picoult, Greg Iles, Fredrik Backman, Kathy Reichs, Charlaine Harris, John Grisham, Alexander McCall Smith, all possess seemingly infinite talents at bringing exquisitely finite characters to life. Here's to that ability to know what limits or bounds define a person - what will motivate them, what will break them, even what will allow them to transcend themselves.


But back to the age-old question: How can the finite utter praise of the Infinite?


Some religions - the Baha'i Faith included - stress the unknowability of God. Essentially, I see it as a mathematical problem. Something that is infinite (God) cannot be 'contained' by something that is not; a painting cannot 'know' the painter. It has been said (and I feel it to be true) that in each stage of creation there are boundaries. An animal (say a dog, say Katie, since this is her day) can 'know' another animal, and can know a plant. A plant can know another plant, and can know the rain and the soil and the rocks. A plant can even know the touch of the gardener, but can it know the gardener?


Yet, a prayer that many Baha'is choose to say every day says that we are "created to know God and to worship Him." Not just that we can know God, but that we were created to know God. This mystery is explored in Greg Iles' novel The Footprints of God. I read it recently, having found it in my mother's small collection of fiction books (she read mostly non-fiction). I was attracted by the title. The book was very good, but Iles tried to put himself into the character of Jesus Christ, and I didn't think this worked. Actually, I wouldn't expect it to work, because of this same problem of boundaries. In order for God to speak through a human being, my (limited) understanding is that the boundary that contains the man or woman who is thus 'possessed' must be stretched beyond normal human understanding and endurance. 


I won't give away the twist at the end of The Footprints of God, but said twist made it worthwhile for me, and Iles managed to get away with the Jesus problem after all, in a clever way. If you have a few extra hours this winter, please read it and tell me what you think!


Peace, Niki














divine things are too deep

Posted on November 1, 2017 at 1:00 AM Comments comments (0)

Hi! This is my #1 post for the November 2017 #bahaiblogging challenge. I am posting here on my website, and also on Facebook. 


Have you ever met someone at a formal event, been asked to share your thoughts on a deep and important topic, and been stuck for words? Happens all the time, right? Divine things, as the saying goes are "too deep to be expressed by common words." ('Abdu'l-Baha) Love is such a divine thing...


"Abdu'l-Baha, who was the son of Baha'u'llah, the Prophet-Founder of the Baha'i Faith, said these words at a wedding. He had just performed the wedding ceremony - his first time since doing this service for his own daughters. Before the wedding he spoke to the bride and groom separately, and privately, asking each if they loved the other with "all your heart and soul?" After the wedding, at dinner, a guest asked 'Abdu'l-Baha why the teachings of all religions are expressed largely by parables and metaphors and not in the plain language of the people.

So next time I am stuck for words, I will try expressing love instead. It isn't easy, especially as the days get shorter and colder (yes, even in sunny South Carolina, I am cold!) I've caught myself becoming stingier and stingier. I crave comfort food and want my friends and family to comfort me, not the other way around...


Meanwhile, I just got an idea for this November blog series. Let's take a look at parables. There are plenty of parables in the New Testament, and I also want to find some parables from other religions as well. Do you know any good ones? Feel free to post your suggestions, and we can start tomorrow.


Peace and Love,
Niki Daniels




Interfaith resources

Posted on August 19, 2015 at 1:20 PM Comments comments (0)

If you're planning a program for Interfaith devotions and want a headstart, why not try one of the themes used for our Devotional in Greenwood, SC? These are PDF files. You can use the document as is, or choose which readings you want to include.  A round of two of prayers may be said either before or after the readings are read and dicsussed.

Friendship

Trustworthiness

We will add more resources as these are developed.

Added 8/23/2015: Happiness

Added 11/30/2015: Teaching


Warmly,

Niki Daniels

Web Store

Posted on May 12, 2015 at 8:30 AM Comments comments (0)

Our Web Store is open! Some of our most popular illuminations are now available as laminated postcards that can be used as bookmarks, or to complement a gift for a special occasion. We have also produced a series of illuminated quotes from Reflections on the Life of the Spirit.

Open Invitation to Interfaith Friends

Posted on March 17, 2015 at 11:45 AM Comments comments (0)

This is an open invitation for all of the friends involved in Interfaith work to submit prayers and quotations for inclusion in Heart to Heart Design Studio's Gallery of Illuminated Texts. Please feel free to browse the Galleries to see the work we have been doing. Quotes and Prayers may be submitted using our Feedback Form (see Tab at top right of the page).


Peace, Niki Daniels

Prayer Gallery, Slideshare account

Posted on March 17, 2015 at 12:20 AM Comments comments (0)

Inspired by the Baha'i Fast, we have reorganized our Gallery section, added a Prayer Gallery and launched a Slideshare account so you can more easily find, download and share our audiovisual presentations.


Here's the link for Slideshare: http://www.slideshare.net/nicolagdaniels


Peace, Niki D


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