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Old 11-26-2014, 09:37 AM   #1
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The Art of Story Telling

SERVING THE CAUSE THROUGH THE ART OF STORYTELLING

Kiser Barnes

A talk given at the Bahá’í World Centre – 29 January 2003


Good evening Friends. I’m delighted to be among so many lovers of stories and storytellers. In this presentation of a few stories, I’ll make some remarks about serving the Cause of God through the art of storytelling.

The Báb and Bahá’u’lláh, like the Manifestations of God before Them, told educative stories. The Manifestations are Divine Educators who often couched the most valuable lessons for humanity in penetrating stories. The use of parables by Jesus is greatly appreciated. In The Dawn-Breakers, Nabíl has recorded narratives Bahá’u’lláh related to him. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá was a superb storyteller. It would be an excellent contribution to learning if the Master’s use of stories was examined. What were His methods? What languages did He use? How did He promote the art of storytelling? What subjects did He stress? Of course, God Passes By is Shoghi Effendi’s unique account of the outstanding events that occurred in the first century of the Faith’s history. A treasure of stories for the world is found in the Guardian’s expositions and commentaries. For example, in The Promised Day is Come, he relates what happened to some eastern rulers who opposed Bahá’u’lláh. In short, storytelling has been, and remains, a powerful instrument for the Faith’s advancement.

TEACHING THE ONENESS OF MANKIND

The young lady who introduced me, Jacqueline Ambe, is from Cameroon. The first Cameroonian woman who accepted the Faith was Mrs. Esther Tanyi. She told me how she became a believer. In her own way, she related how a believer taught her to believe in the oneness of mankind through his consumption of food.

After Mr. Enoch Olinga, the late Hand of the Cause of God, settled in Cameroon in 1953, the Guardian sent Mr. Alí Nakhjavání there with his request that five of the new and only Cameroonian Bahá’ís at that time should arise to establish the Faith in other parts of West Africa. The only question these new believers had was this: Who among them would gain this special honour? They had recently elected the first Local Spiritual Assembly in the city of Victoria. Therefore, they decided that the five who would become international pioneers would be selected by secret ballot. Ballots were cast. Those chosen left their homes for other lands. Thus, five Cameroonians became Knights of Bahá’u’lláh during the Ten Year Crusade. Mr. David Tanyi, Esther’s husband, established the Faith in Togo.

She told me that before this occurred, Mr. Olinga stayed with her family. She said she didn’t understand what he was “preaching.” She noticed, however, there was something different about him that made her like the Bahá’í Faith. In addition to his other noble qualities, what impressed her most was this: “Every dish of food I put before Mr. Olinga he ate with relish. This was very strange,” she related. For in her culture, one never ate the food of someone from a different tribe. People could put harmful things in it. She said she was testing Mr. Olinga with her cooking. He ate everything she served. To Mrs. Tanyi, this proved Mr. Olinga truly believed what he was teaching of the oneness of peoples; that God had sent a new Prophet whose teachings melted estrangements and differences between peoples. She became the first woman believer in Cameroon. I don’t know if our Cameroonian introducer can cook, but she comes from a great nation of storytellers.
 
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Old 11-26-2014, 09:40 AM   #2
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THE BAHÁ’Í STORYTELLING TRADITION

In the Bahá’í world, a great storytelling tradition exists. Whenever believers attained Bahá’u’lláh’s presence, they treasured whatever He said. There are soul-stirring accounts of stories He told the friends of Himself, the Báb, of outstanding believers, and of the greatness of the Cause. In the Holy Land, He continued this practice. Thus, it is not surprising that at the Bahá’í World Centre the storytelling tradition continues. Individuals relating how they became Bahá’ís is a fascinating part of our social life here. When we hear these stories, when we tell stories of our Bahá’í experiences, the love for Bahá’u’lláh and the Faith that is expressed penetrates the heart. Our stories may expand consciousness of spiritual realities. They deepen bonds of affection and love.

Bahá’u’lláh loved humour. He often made believers feel at ease in His presence by mentioning amusing, trivial things. Here’s a story you may like. Mírzá Ja’far had been a Mullá in Iran. Soon after he met Bahá’u’lláh in Baghdád, he accepted the Faith. He threw away prestige and power as a prominent religious leader. He was a servant in the household of Bahá’u’lláh in ‘Akká. One day, the Muftí of ‘Akká visited Bahá’u’lláh. He asked the Blessed Beauty to explain the meaning of a specific religious theme. Bahá’u’lláh instructed Mírzá Ja’far to answer the Muftí. He did so brilliantly. The Muftí was astonished – a mere servant in Bahá’u’lláh’s household was so learned.

Mírzá Ja’far was quick-witted. He often made Bahá’u’lláh laugh. One day, Bahá’u’lláh asked, “Mírzá Ja’far, would you like me to reveal for you some of your bad qualities?” Mírzá Ja’far quickly, and very wisely, responded, “No, thank you!”

Storytelling is one of the oldest arts. It exists in every culture. In Africa, some villages have a resident storyteller: the person who, at the end of the day, over the night fires, tells stories from the culture and history of the people. There are also traveling storytellers.

It may be that the great explosion of storytelling in the world is connected with the influence of Bahá’u’lláh’s Manifestation. As you know, the Revelation places before mankind the great story of religion. It is an epical account of the Almighty’s loving intervention in mankind’s affairs. This story is being revealed with a fullness and clarity never seen before in human history. Since the appearance of the Twin Manifestations, Bahá’u’lláh and the Báb, the world has had fresh and stirring accounts of the spiritual rebirth of Their followers and the extraordinary recreation of society.

The teaching of progressive revelation is part of the story, as are those of the oneness of religion and the oneness of God. The equality of men and women is a portion. The ushering in of a divine, equitable World Order is another feature. It is, perhaps, the most profound account ever revealed of the desperate opposition of religious and secular leaders against God’s Prophets. Of course, the unfoldment of the story continues. The recent message to the world’s religious leaders has its place in it. Efforts believers are making to understand the station and mission of Bahá’u’lláh, to appreciate more deeply the nature and the purpose of religion are other sections of the lofty tale. The victories won in the current Plan are another part. Is it not a wonder that the Báb and Bahá’u’lláh, and ‘Abdu’l-Bahá in His own sphere, have made people across the planet fall in love with the story of religion?

A unique feature of the divine story, it seems, is that Bahá’ís are really striving to understand it! The ones who are listening to the divine tale. The ones who are thrilled by the story! We know that two Manifestations of God have appeared. We know that the Mystery of God, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, and the Guardian, Shoghi Effendi, achieved the purposes of their ministries. We know that there remains in the world divine guidance for mankind through the Universal House of Justice, a perpetual institution that will exist until the next Dispensation. These are major features of the story of religion that we are enjoying.
 
Old 11-26-2014, 09:47 AM   #3
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Quote taken from the above.

Quote:
Individuals relating how they became Bahá’ís is a fascinating part of our social life here. When we hear these stories, when we tell stories of our Bahá’í experiences, the love for Bahá’u’lláh and the Faith that is expressed penetrates the heart. Our stories may expand consciousness of spiritual realities. They deepen bonds of affection and love.
Here is a great site for stories.
https://bahaihistoryuk.wordpress.com/
 
Old 11-26-2014, 10:38 AM   #4
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STORIES OF SPIRITUAL TRANSFORMATION

At social gatherings at the World Centre, there are wonderful storytellers. Believers share how they became Bahá’ís and more. This sharing deepens love for the Faith. I was at a dinner last Friday with twelve others. Individuals were asked to recount how they became Bahá’ís. Thirteen marvelous stories were presented. As I listened, I thought how splendid it was to hear such stirring accounts from every part of the planet as to how the teachings of the Faith had penetrated receptive hearts. We learned about each other’s backgrounds, families, and how each person acquired a new consciousness, a new relationship with and commitment to God. There were two believers from Iranian background at the event. They had the best story. They didn’t have the sad tale of stumbling through life, as was my experience, until they found Bahá’u’lláh. They grew up with His Teachings.

When my turn came, I related how Dr. Eugene Byrd kept telling me about the Faith until something happened within me, through the mercy of God, which made me seriously investigate the Faith. But the believers from Persian background had grown up with the Faith. Before they were born, Bahá’í prayers had been offered for their well-being. This is the best of the stories, isn’t it? To have been associated with Bahá’u’lláh and the Faith from the first moments of being, even if they were not conscious of the blessings.

I have a friend of Iranian background who often lamented that she hadn’t had the “fortune” to have heard of the Faith for the first time when she was an adult. Then, according to her thinking, she could have investigated it, and independently embraced the Cause. She said I was lucky. I told her she was wrong. It wasn’t any good fortune for me not to have been a believer all my life. She was in the best position. It was like she was thinking she had to first eat garbage before she could appreciate the wonderful banquet that is the Bahá’í teachings. Who would like to eat garbage before being led to the Bahá’í feast of divine teachings and laws, and then say, “Oh, it was wonderful, I ate garbage! Now, I’m ready to be a Bahá’í.” She had the best story. She had some strange, romantic confusion; thinking it would have been better for her to have waited until she was an adult before finding the Faith. She had it all her life. This is the best story. You may discover different ways of thinking about personal Bahá’í stories. You may find they are profound experiences of God’s mercies and His blessings.

When we are aiming for true understanding of religious stories, we have to be careful to hit the mark of reality. When I was with those believers Friday evening, listening to their stories, I appreciated that the arrows of their spiritual strivings had hit the bull’s eye. Once there was a famous archer. He went around villages and towns looking for someone who was a better archer, someone who could teach him. Finally he came across a tree in which an arrow was stuck. Around that arrow there was a target ring and the arrow was perfectly in the center. The archer went on. He found another tree. Again, an arrow was straight in the center of the target: A straight bull’s eye. He went on. He found many other trees with arrows in the bull’s eye. Then he came across a barn. On the side of the barn, there were several target rings with arrows stuck perfectly in the center.

He asked everyone he met, “Where can I find the master at shooting the bow?” Finally, he was led to the master. He was weak. He had poor vision. The man asked him, “How did you become such a good archer? You hit the target each time.” The master answered, “It’s easy. Anybody can do it.” He said, “I shoot the arrow in the tree. Then I paint the target around it. Wherever the arrow lands, I just paint the bull’s eye around it!” This is what you and I are when we launch-tell-stories. We humbly surround it with the target of servitude. In this way, whatever our experiences in storytelling, we know stories help us hit the target of service.

Storytelling is an art. It’s one of the oldest arts. One scholar described it as a deathless art. It exists in all cultures. It is one of the finest forms of communications. It brings people together. It will never die. It refreshes. It makes experiences come alive. Therefore, no one should feel that he or she can’t tell stories for the advancement of the Faith. Acquiring skills in telling tales is achieved through practice.

When I became a Bahá’í, I was in a very dynamic community. The Bahá’í teachings of the oneness of mankind, the establishment of racial equality, unity in diversity, and, particularly, the Guardian’s matchless exposition about the elimination of racism in America in The Advent of Divine Justice, had moved me deeply. I would like to mention a few individuals who were in that community. I start with Mr. Clarence Percival.

At one of my first Bahá’í meetings, Clarence Percival came up to me. He was a thin and wiry man. It seemed he hadn’t done too well in life. He told me he was once a member of the Ku-Klux Klan organization. This organization believes in white supremacy. The members, and their supporters, believe black people are inferior to whites. The organization has acted out this conviction throughout a long history of violent terrorism against African-Americans. Mr. Percival said that when he accepted Bahá’u’lláh’s Teachings, he realized how wrong he had been. He said, “My conception of myself, my conception of race, my ideas of whites and blacks were wrong, against the teachings of God.”

He went on telling his story. He wept. He told me, “I’m telling you my story, so you will appreciate how the Faith changed me”. I understood. The Faith had given him a new consciousness. He was speaking about the quickening power of the Teachings of the Faith. His tears showed how sincere he was; how eager he was to continue his spiritual transformation.

Mrs. Margaret Hipsley was also in that community. She had been a believer 60 years when we met. She warned me to never miss any opportunity to serve the Faith; never to miss any opportunity to receive the bounties the Faith bestows. To illustrate the lesson, she said that when she was a young woman ‘Abdu’l-Bahá visited our city for one day. On that day, one of her girlfriends said to Mrs. Hipsley, “Let’s go to the beach”. This girl wasn’t a Bahá’í. She said, “Let’s go to the beach. You’ll have another time to meet the leader of your Faith”. Mrs. Hipsley said she went to the beach and that she missed the one opportunity in her life to meet the Master. She was heartbroken forever after. She would say, “Never miss an opportunity to reap the bounties the Faith offers and never miss an opportunity to serve the Faith.”

As for the tension between whites and blacks in America, she told me one day about her husband. He had passed away. He liked the Faith, but he couldn’t accept the teaching that black people and white people are equal in God’s sight. He grew up with the false doctrine of white superiority. It tormented him that his wife went to Bahá’í meetings where blacks and whites associated with one another in warm fellowship, in love with one another as sisters and brothers. This caused Mr. Hipsley considerable anguish.

Of course, Mrs. Hipsley wanted her husband to accept the Faith. She loved him, and hoped to be with him in all the worlds. She stopped going to Bahá’í meetings, because attending the gatherings disturbed her husband. She said that, occasionally, when her husband was at work, some believers visited her; but she didn’t go to the Bahá’í Centre for seven years. After seven years, her husband told her, “I realize what an injustice I have done you. I have been selfish and unfair. You go to your Bahá’í meetings. Please forgive me. I cannot understand the new way of thinking and acting that your Faith commands”.

She returned to the Bahá’í meetings with her husband’s support. He assisted the local Bahá’í community in many ways. He never could overcome his prejudice against African-Americans. But Mrs. Hipsley thanked God that as a result of her sacrifice, her sensitivity to her husband’s difficulties, and her effort to teach him the Faith, he did make some progress in recognizing her commitment to the principle of the oneness of humanity.
 
Old 11-26-2014, 11:02 AM   #5
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DRESSING TRUTH IN STORY

Perhaps you realize from what’s been presented thus far, how fascinating it is that the Prophets have used stories to advance Their Revelations. It is also meaningful that believers everywhere are sharing anecdotes in their homes, in children and youth classes, in deepening classes, and in study circles. Perhaps in the Bahá’í Dispensation, it will be more fully appreciated that storytelling is one of the best ways to convey religious truths. Through them, one feels the power of spiritual insight. One senses that stories have an important role in the advancement of religion. They feed the flame of enthusiasm that glows in the heart of every Bahá’í.

You may have heard this old teaching story. “Truth, naked and cold, had been turned away from every door in the village. Her nakedness frightened the people. When Parable found her, she was huddled in a corner, shivering and hungry. Taking pity on her, Parable gathered her up and took her home. There she dressed Truth in story, warmed her and sent her out again. Clothed in story, Truth knocked again at the villagers’ doors and was readily welcomed into the people’s houses. They invited her to eat at their table and warm herself by their fire.” (Annette Simmons, The Story Factor, Perseus Publishing, Cambridge 2001, p.27) Wherever Truth went, the people welcomed her with joy. Truth, dressed in story, thrills all hearts.

I give you another example of truth dressed in story. I was living among the Yoruba people in Nigeria. At my university there was a highly-regarded, internationally acclaimed African Studies Department. Professor Akin Isola was in the Department. During our meeting, when I requested him to help me learn more about Yoruba culture, he asked why I wanted to learn about the culture. “In order to better teach the Yoruba people about the Bahá’í Faith,” I responded.

Professor Isola was not interested in religion. He was a socialist, a renowned linguist, a published poet and playwright. He laughed at my curious request. Finally, he said, “I will help you, but in this way; this story will demonstrate how I’ll help you.”

Once in London, he began, an Englishman visited his father’s grave. He had dozens of bright red roses that he intended to lay atop his father’s resting place as a means of expressing his love. When he arrived at the grave, he was greatly surprised. There was a new grave next to his father’s. What was even more incredible to the shocked Englishman was this: A Chinese man was setting bowls of rice and herbs on the new grave. It was the resting place of his father who had recently passed away. Then, the Chinese mourner began sprinkling herbs upon the grave. Finally, the Englishman, Professor Isola said, couldn’t restrain himself any longer. Looking over the roses he was clutching, he asked the Chinese man, “When do you think your father is going to rise up from the grave and eat that rice?” The Chinese man looked at the Englishman with astonishment. Then he said, “My father will come up from his grave to eat the rice the same time your father will come up from his grave and smell those roses.”

Through this wonderful story, Professor Isola said he would help me, if I respected the culture of his people. The story showed that my heart had to open up and appreciate the ways and the traditions of the Yoruba people. He couldn’t have made me understand the point any better than by that story. Some beautiful truths were dressed in it.

I’ll tell you another truth I learnt from the Yoruba culture that helped in our teaching efforts. According to some international studies, Yoruba women have more twins than any other women. There are twins everywhere in Yorubaland. The Yorubas also have a very strong traditional seniority system that helps regulate social relationships. They have this great story from their tradition about twins. Before twins are born, according to the legend, the older twin tells the younger: “You go out and be born first. If everything is all right, give a yell. Then I will come.” Thus, according to the Yorubas, the second born twin is the older, since he commanded the first born to enter the world first. The second born, the elder, could have been born first, had a right to be born first, but he sent the younger twin ahead to see what the world was like; to prepare the way for his coming, the coming of the older.

This lofty conception was included in our presentations on the Faith. With excitement and joy, we began to speak about the Twin Manifestations of God. When Yoruba seekers were told the Báb had come first to prepare the way for Bahá’u’lláh, many said, “Of course! Your religion expresses truth. Such a wise religion. So consistent with tradition, expectations – Twin Manifestations of God!”
 
Old 11-27-2014, 11:50 AM   #6
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We shall here relate a story that will serve as an example to all. The Arabian chronicles tell how, at a time prior to the advent of Muhammad, Nu’man son of Mundhir the Lakhmite—an Arab king in the Days of Ignorance, whose seat of government was the city of Hirih—had one day returned so often to his wine-cup that his mind clouded over and his reason deserted him. In this drunken and insensible condition he gave orders that his two boon companions, his close and much-loved friends, Khalid son of Mudallil and Amr son of Mas‘ud-Kaldih, should be put to death. When he wakened after his carousal, he inquired for the two friends and was given the grievous news. He was sick at heart, and because of his intense love and longing for them, he built two splendid monuments over their two graves and he named these the Smeared-With-Blood.
Then he set apart two days out of the year, in memory of the two companions, and he called one of them the Day of Evil and one the Day of Grace. Every year on these two appointed days he would issue forth with pomp and circumstance and sit between the monuments. If, on the Day of Evil, his eye fell on any soul, that person would be put to death; but on the Day of Grace, whoever passed would be overwhelmed with gifts and benefits. Such was his rule, sealed with a mighty oath and always rigidly observed.
One day the king mounted his horse, that was called Mahmud, and rode out into the plains to hunt. Suddenly in the distance he caught sight of a wild donkey. Nu’man urged on his horse to overtake it, and galloped away at such speed that he was cut off from his retinue. As night approached, the king was hopelessly lost. Then he made out a tent, far off in the desert, and he turned his horse and headed toward it. When he reached the entrance of the tent he asked, “Will you receive a guest?” The owner (who was Hanzala, son of Abi-Ghafray-i-Ta‘i) replied, “Yea.” He came forward and helped Nu’man to dismount. Then he went to his wife and told her, “There are clear signs of greatness in the bearing of this person. Do your best to show him hospitality, and make ready a feast.” His wife said, “We have a ewe. Sacrifice it. And I have saved a little flour against such a day.” Hanzala first milked the ewe and carried a bowl of milk to Nu’man, and then he slaughtered her and prepared a meal; and what with his friendliness and loving-kindness, Nu’man spent that night in peace and comfort. When dawn came, Nu’man made ready to leave, and he said to Hanzala: “You have shown me the utmost generosity, receiving and feasting me. I am Nu’man, son of Mundhir, and I shall eagerly await your arrival at my court."
Time passed, and famine fell on the land of Tayy. Hanzala was in dire need and for this reason he sought out the king. By a strange coincidence he arrived on the Day of Evil. Nu’man was greatly troubled in spirit. He began to reproach his friend, saying, “Why did you come to your friend on this day of all days? For this is the Day of Evil, that is, the Day of Wrath and the Day of Distress. This day, should my eyes alight on Qabus, my only son, he should not escape with his life. Now ask me whatever favor you will."
Hanzala said: “I knew nothing of your Day of Evil. As for the gifts of this life, they are meant for the living, and since I at this hour must drink of death, what can all the world’s storehouses avail me now?"
Nu’man said, “There is no help for this."
Hanzala told him: “Respite me, then, that I may go back to my wife and make my testament. Next year I shall return, on the Day of Evil."
Nu’man then asked for a guarantor, so that, if Hanzala should break his word, this guarantor would be put to death instead. Hanzala, helpless and bewildered, looked about him. Then his gaze fell on one of Nu’man’s retinue, Sharik, son of Amr, son of Qays of Shayban, and to him he recited these lines: “O my partner, O son of Amr! Is there any escape from death? O brother of every afflicted one! O brother of him who is brotherless! O brother of Nu’man, in thee today is a surety for the Shaykh. Where is Shayban the noble—may the All-Merciful favor him!” But Sharik only answered, “O my brother, a man cannot gamble with his life.” At this the victim could not tell where to turn. Then a man named Qarad, son of Adja’ the Kalbite stood up and offered himself as a surety, agreeing that, should he fail on the next Day of Wrath to deliver up the victim, the king might do with him, Qarad, as he wished. Nu’man then bestowed five hundred camels on Hanzala, and sent him home.
In the following year on the Day of Evil, as soon as the true dawn broke in the sky, Nu’man as was his custom set out with pomp and pageantry and made for the two mausoleums called the Smeared-With-Blood. He brought Qarad along, to wreak his kingly wrath upon him. The pillars of the state then loosed their tongues and begged for mercy, imploring the king to respite Qarad until sundown, for they hoped that Hanzala might yet return; but the king’s purpose was to spare the life of Hanzala, and to requite his hospitality by putting Qarad to death in his place. As the sun began to set, they stripped off the garments of Qarad, and made ready to sever his head. At that moment a rider appeared in the distance, galloping at top speed. Nu’man said to the swordsman, “Why delayest thou?” The ministers said, “Perchance it is Hanzala who comes.” And when the rider drew near, they saw it was none other.
Nu’man was sorely displeased. He said, “Thou fool! Thou didst slip away once from the clutching fingers of death; must thou provoke him now a second time?"
And Hanzala answered, “Sweet in my mouth and pleasant on my tongue is the poison of death, at the thought of redeeming my pledge."
Nu’man asked, “What could be the reason for this trustworthiness, this regard for thine obligation and this concern for thine oath?” And Hanzala answered, “It is my faith in the one God and in the Books that have come down from heaven.” Nu’man asked, “What Faith dost thou profess?” And Hanzala said, “It was the holy breaths of Jesus that brought me to life. I follow the straight pathway of Christ, the Spirit of God.” Nu’man said, “Let me inhale these sweet aromas of the Spirit."
So it was that Hanzala drew out the white hand of guidance from the bosom of the love of God,[1] and illumined the sight and the insight of the beholders with the Gospel light. After he had in bell-like accents recited some of the divine verses out of the Evangel, Nu’man and all his ministers sickened of their idols and their idol-worship and were confirmed in the Faith of God. And they said, “Alas, a thousand times alas, that up to now we were careless of this infinite mercy and veiled away therefrom, and were bereft of this rain from the clouds of the grace of God.” Then straightway the king tore down the two monuments called the Smeared-With-Blood, and he repented of his tyranny and established justice in the land.
Observe how one individual, and he a man of the desert, to outward seeming unknown and of no station—because he showed forth one of the qualities of the pure in heart, was able to deliver this proud sovereign and a great company of others from the dark night of unbelief and guide them into the morning of salvation; to save them from the perdition of idolatry and bring them to the shores of the oneness of God, and to put an end to practices of the sort which blight a whole society and reduce the peoples to barbarism. One must think deeply over this, and grasp its meaning.
(‘Abdu’l-Bahá, The Secret of Divine Civilization, p. 46-52)
[1 Cf. Qur‘án 27:12, referring to Moses: “Put now thy hand into thy bosom: it shall come forth white ... one of nine signs to Pharaoh and his people....” Also Qur‘án 7:105; 20:23;26:32; and 28:32. Also Exodus 4:6. See too Edward Fitzgerald’s The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam: Now the New Year reviving old Desires, The thoughtful Soul to Solitude retires, Where the White Hand of Moses on the Bough Puts out, and Jesus from the Ground suspires. The metaphors here refer to white blossoms and the perfumes of spring.]
 
Old 11-27-2014, 12:04 PM   #7
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The essence of the message of every religion the world has known is the love of God. To this end, Bahá’u’lláh has given us many beautiful writings. In one particularly apt Hidden Word, He said, ‘‘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.” I remember when I first read those words I thought it was a threat, that God was saying, “If you don’t love Me, I won’t love you.” That didn’t tally with my feelings about God. But one time a Bahá’í explained this Hidden Word through the analogy of a little fruit tree. If we put the tree out into the sunshine and the rain, he said, it would grow to become a beautiful tree and bring forth luscious fruit. But if we put it in a cold, dark cellar, it would die. The point: that the sun shines, the rain falls, whether that little plant is outside or not. All that little plant has to do is to get out into the sunshine and the rain and it will have all of the life-giving things that it needs to grow to be a robust, healthy tree. We are like that. Mankind is surrounded by the love of God always. It is there for us, and like the sun and the rain which continue pouring out their life-giving qualities whether the little tree is outside or not, the love of God surrounds us always. However, we have to do something about it. We have to get into the love of God. Jesus said, “Knock, and it shall be opened unto thee” We must knock. We must get into the sunshine of the love of God if we are to receive its benefit and we need it desperately. We need it now as we have never needed it before.
(John Robarts: Baha'i Talks, Messages and Articles: The value of prayer – A talk by Hand of the Cause John Robarts)
 
Old 11-27-2014, 02:50 PM   #8
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Bill this is a very good thread and I see this all the time, the best teachers are the best story tellers, it is an art that must be practiced all the time

My best friend is the greatest of story tellers, he has a story for every occasion, he is born to teach! I note when with him when a conversation arises there is an applicable story to be told!

This is an art that we all must work on, it comes from the heart, thus we only need to relate to an incident in our lives and share it entwined with the wisdom of the writings and we will all be made anew!

May God grant us all this ability, the wisdom of how to put it into practice and the Souls to converse with.

God Bless and Regards Tony
 
Old 11-28-2014, 05:24 AM   #9
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spot on

You have it dear Tony, spot on
 
Old 11-29-2014, 07:26 AM   #10
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In Edinburgh, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá addressed the Esperantists. A serious advocate for the establishment of an international auxiliary language, He cited an anecdote to stress how important proper communication between people is: ‘I recall an incident which occurred in Bagdad. There were two friends who knew not each other’s language. One fell ill, the other visited him, but not being able to express his sympathy in words, resorted to gesture, as if to say, “How do you feel?” With another sign the sick [one] replied, “I shall soon be dead”; and his visitor, believing the gesture to indicate that he was getting better, said, “God be praised!”’ (Honnold, Annamarie, Vignettes from the Life of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, p. 176)
 
Old 11-29-2014, 07:45 AM   #11
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Bahá’u’lláh and the Fishes
Once upon a time there was a noble Vasir, a minister in the court of the Shah, the King of Persia. He was a good man, greatly respected, who helped those in need. The Vasir had a son whom he loved greatly. One night this Vasir had an extraordinary dream about his son, a dream that he could not forget. He dreamt that he saw his son swimming in a vast limitless ocean. His face was radiant and lit up the waves through which he swam. His long black hair floated behind Him. A great multitude of fishes, attracted by the light of His face surrounded Him, they each took the end of one of His hairs in their mouths, and together they swam. But the fish never stopped his progress, and not one hair was ever detached from His head. When he awoke, the Vasir could not forget about this dream, and he summoned the local dream interpreter to his house. The soothsayer listened intently to the Vasir’s dream, nodding, and when he had finished, this is what he said. ‘ The limitless ocean that you have seen in your dream is nothing more than this world of being. Single-handed and alone your son will achieve supremacy over it. The fish represent the people of the world, around Him they will gather, too Him they will cling, but they will never be able to hinder His progress or resist His march. The hand of God almighty will be over Him always.’ The interpreter asked if he might have the honour to meet the Vair’s son.,. and so it was that he came face to face with Bahá’u’lláh. He gazed at Him full of wonder, and what he saw there delighted him. He extolled every trait of His countenance, in every expression he saw signs of His hidden glory, so great was his admiration and so profuse his praise that from that day on Bahá’u’lláh’s father became even more devoted to Him. Like a Jacob to his Joseph, he loved Him as the best of fathers loves the most beloved of sons.’
 
Old 11-30-2014, 05:16 AM   #12
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Opposition to 'Abdu'l-Baha's proposed marriage

Bahá'u'lláh intended to give His niece, Shahr-Banu Khanum, in marriage to His eldest Son, ‘Abdu’l-Baha. She was the daughter of His faithful older half-brother, Mirza Muhammad-Hasan. That was also the great hope of Mirza Muhammad-Hasan who hurried to Baghdad and pleaded with Bahá'u'lláh to bring about this union. But Mirza Muhammad-Hasan passed away before the Most Great Branch came of age.

When Bahá'u'lláh and His family were exiled to Iraq, Shahr-Banu Khanum remained in the district of Nur in Mazindaran, until in 1285 A.H. (1868) when Bahá'u'lláh instructed His uncle, Mulla Zaynu'l-'Abidin, to escort her to Tihran and from there to arrange her journey to Adrianople.

No sooner had this news reached Shah Sultan Khanum, a half-sister of Bahá'u'lláh and a follower of Mirza Yahya, than she arose in enmity and with the assistance of Mirza Rida-Quli, a half-brother of Baha’u’llah, and prevented the marriage from taking place. Mirza Rida-Quli, who had stood as father to Shahr-Banu Khanum after the death of her father, Mirza Muhammad-Hasan, was afraid that Násiri'd-Dín Sháh and his ministers would frown on this marriage and take him to task.

Shah Sultan Khanum took Shahr-Banu Khanum to her home in Tihran and practically forced her to marry instead Mirza Ali-Khan-i-Nuri, the son of the Prime Minister. Bahá'u'lláh has referred to this in Epistle to the Son of the Wolf. This marriage, so rudely imposed upon her, plunged Shahr-Banu Khanum into a state of perpetual grief and misery. Her youngest brother, Mirza Nizamu'l-Mulk, a faithful and devoted follower of Bahá'u'lláh, has recorded in his memoirs that after her marriage Shahr-Banu Khanum prayed fervently to God for her deliverance from her tragic plight. It seems that her prayers were answered, as shortly afterwards she became afflicted with tuberculosis and died.
(Adapted from ‘Baha’u’llah The King of Glory’, by Hassan Balyuzi, and ‘The Revelation of Baha’u’llah, vol. 2’, by Adib Taherzadeh)
 
Old 11-30-2014, 05:20 AM   #13
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Two examples of Baha’u’llah being fully aware of one’s thoughts and feelings

Haji Muhammad-Tahir-i-Malmiri, who was a historian, a teacher of wide repute and the father of Adib Taherzadeh, attained the presence of Bahá'u'lláh in 'Akká. He writes in his memoirs:

Whenever I came into the presence of the Blessed Beauty, if there were anything I wanted to ask, I would say it by the way of the heart, and He would invariably answer me. This is because, in His presence, the tongue was powerless to utter one word. I always sat in His presence spellbound, oblivious of my own self. One of the questions I wanted to ask concerned the station of the Holy Imams. [1] I wanted to know whether they were equal or, as I thought, some of them were exalted above others. For about six months I wanted to ask this question, but every time I attained His presence I forgot to think of it in my heart.

One day, as I was going to the Mansion to attain His presence, I kept on continuously reminding myself about this question so that I might remember to communicate it through the heart to Bahá'u'lláh. Even as I was climbing the steps of the Mansion I was thinking of it. Suddenly I heard the voice of Bahá'u'lláh greeting me saying 'Marhaba' (Welcome). I looked up and saw Him standing at the top of the stairs. I forgot everything! He went to His room, invited me in, and told me to be seated. I sat by the door. He then paced up and down and revealed a Tablet [2] in my name. The Tablet was in Persian and halfway through it he said, 'The Imams all came from God, spoke of God and all returned to Him.' [3] This answered my question and I realized that their station was equal. [4]

In another instance, Haji Muhammad-Tahir writes:

In my heart I often begged the Blessed Beauty to enable me to lay down my life as a martyr in His path. Every time that I turned to Him in my heart with this plea, he would smile at me and reveal to me the signs of His pleasure and bounties ... until one day when these thoughts entered my mind, he turned to me and said, 'You must live to serve the Cause...'[4]
(Adib Taherzadeh, ‘The Revelation of Baha'u'llah, vol. 3’ - 'Akka, The Early Years - 1868-77)

[1] 'Ali, the son-in-law of Muhammad, was according to Bahá'í belief the legitimate successor of Muhammad, and the first Imam. Ten of his descendants succeeded him and are known as the holy Imams. The Qá'im is believed by Shí'ah Islam to be the return of the twelfth Imam.
[2] This Tablet was not recorded and therefore no copy exists.
[3] These are not the exact words of Bahá'u'lláh.
[4] Unpublished memoirs.
 
Old 11-30-2014, 03:00 PM   #14
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In 1914 The Christian Commonwealth carried words of praise for ‘Abdu’l-Bahá: ‘It is wonderful to see the venerable figure of the revered Bahá’í leader passing through the narrow streets of this ancient town [Akká], where he lived for forty years as a political prisoner, and to note the deep respect with which he is saluted by the Turkish officials and the officers of the garrison from the governor downward, who visit him constantly and listen with the deepest attention to his words. “The Master” does not teach in Syria as he did in the West, but he goes about doing good, and Mohammedans and Christians alike share his benefactions. From sunrise often until midnight he works, in spite of broken health, never sparing himself if there is a wrong to be righted or a suffering to be relieved. To Christians who regard ‘Abdu’l-Bahá with impartial and sympathetic eyes, this wonderful selfless life cannot fail to recall that life whose tragic termination on Calvary the whole Christian world recalls…’
(Honnold, Annamarie, Vignettes from the Life of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá)
 
Old 11-30-2014, 03:09 PM   #15
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To Christians who regard ‘Abdu’l-Bahá with impartial and sympathetic eyes, this wonderful selfless life cannot fail to recall that life whose tragic termination on Calvary the whole Christian world recalls…’
Amazingly strong words! In the veiled language of those times, they basically say that 'Adu'l-Bahá seems to be the return of Christ!

gnat
 
Old 11-30-2014, 05:31 PM   #16
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Amazingly strong words! In the veiled language of those times, they basically say that 'Adu'l-Bahá seems to be the return of Christ!

gnat
Dear Gnat - Yes, but this is the very accusation that saddened Abdul'Baha immensely.

This resulted in many Tablets by Abdul'baha upon His Station. His Station be that of "Abdul'baha", (Servant of Baha). This as he said His Ultimate Wish and Ultimate Glory - Bahá'í Reference Library - The World Order of Bahá’u’lláh, Pages 131-140

"..‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s own statements, in confirmation of this warning, are no less emphatic and binding: “This is,” He declares, “my firm, my unshakable conviction, the essence of my unconcealed and explicit belief—a conviction and belief which the denizens of the Abhá Kingdom fully share: The Blessed Beauty is the Sun of Truth, and His light the light of truth. The Báb is likewise the Sun of Truth, and His light the light of truth… My station is the station of servitude—a servitude which is complete, pure and real, firmly established, enduring, obvious, explicitly revealed and subject to no interpretation whatever… I am the Interpreter of the Word of God; such is my interpretation.”..."

God Bless and Regards Tony
 
Old 12-01-2014, 06:54 AM   #17
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He had left orders that none were to be turned away, but one who had twice vainly sought his presence, and was, through some oversight, prevented from seeing him, wrote a heartbreaking letter showing that he thought himself rebuffed. It was translated by the Persian interpreter. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá at once put on his coat, and, turning towards the door, said, with an expression of unspeakable sadness, “A friend of mine has been martyred, and I am very grieved. I go out alone.” and he swept down the steps. One could then see how well the title of “Master” became him.
(‘Abdu’l-Bahá, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá in London, p. 109)
 
Old 12-01-2014, 02:05 PM   #18
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Adapted from “The Dawning Place” by Bruce W. Whitmore

One American Baha’i who made a unique contribution to the effort to build the Baha’i House of Worship in 1908 was Esther Tobin, known to her friends as Nettie. She was a loving, humble woman who earned a meager living as a seamstress. Nettie was troubled by her financial inability to contribute to the building of the temple and prayed often that God send her something to offer as a gift. She found inspiration in a letter the American Baha’is received from a Persian Baha’i:
“Now is the time for expending energy and power in the erection of the edifice, be it a mere stone, laid in the name of the Baha’i Mashrak-el-Azkar [a building erected for the praise of God]. For the glory and honor of the first stone is equivalent to all the stones and implements which will later be used there.”

Shortly after the letter arrived, Ms. Tobin visited a construction site near her home, just north of downtown Chicago. She sought out the project’s foreman, told him about the temple project, and asked if he could offer her an inexpensive building stone. The foreman, enchanted with Nettie Tobin, showed her a small pile of limestone rocks, damaged and unfit for use, and invited her to take one. Later that day she and her neighbor wrapped one of the stones in a piece of carpet, tied a clothesline around it and dragged the bundle home.

The stone was carried by hand, in two street cars, on one volunteer’s back, dragged along the ground, wheeled in a homemade cart, and with Nettie’s determination and the assistance of several helpers and a young newsboy who was pressed into service, it was deposited two days later amid the rubble at the temple building site.

In the months ahead the stone provided a focal point for Baha’i gatherings. Other stones were reportedly sent by Baha’is from various parts of the world. Yet none of these ever reached the temple grounds. Only Nettie Tobin’s contribution of “the stone which the builders rejected”* would be available to serve as the marker dedicated by Abdu’l-Baha in 1912.

Today, visitors to the House of Worship can see the stone at the Visitors Center. While most cornerstones are set in a prominent location on the outside of a building, visitors may be surprised to find Nettie Tobin’s stone on the floor inside the building. Be sure to look for it the next time you come to visit.

* “The stone which the builders rejected has become the chief corner stone.” (Psalms: 118: 22)
 
Old 12-01-2014, 04:14 PM   #19
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Originally Posted by BlinkeyBill View Post
Adapted from “The Dawning Place” by Bruce W. Whitmore

One American Baha’i who made a unique contribution to the effort to build the Baha’i House of Worship in 1908 was Esther Tobin, known to her friends as Nettie. She was a loving, humble woman who earned a meager living as a seamstress. Nettie was troubled by her financial inability to contribute to the building of the temple and prayed often that God send her something to offer as a gift. She found inspiration in a letter the American Baha’is received from a Persian Baha’i:
“Now is the time for expending energy and power in the erection of the edifice, be it a mere stone, laid in the name of the Baha’i Mashrak-el-Azkar [a building erected for the praise of God]. For the glory and honor of the first stone is equivalent to all the stones and implements which will later be used there.”

Shortly after the letter arrived, Ms. Tobin visited a construction site near her home, just north of downtown Chicago. She sought out the project’s foreman, told him about the temple project, and asked if he could offer her an inexpensive building stone. The foreman, enchanted with Nettie Tobin, showed her a small pile of limestone rocks, damaged and unfit for use, and invited her to take one. Later that day she and her neighbor wrapped one of the stones in a piece of carpet, tied a clothesline around it and dragged the bundle home.

The stone was carried by hand, in two street cars, on one volunteer’s back, dragged along the ground, wheeled in a homemade cart, and with Nettie’s determination and the assistance of several helpers and a young newsboy who was pressed into service, it was deposited two days later amid the rubble at the temple building site.

In the months ahead the stone provided a focal point for Baha’i gatherings. Other stones were reportedly sent by Baha’is from various parts of the world. Yet none of these ever reached the temple grounds. Only Nettie Tobin’s contribution of “the stone which the builders rejected”* would be available to serve as the marker dedicated by Abdu’l-Baha in 1912.

Today, visitors to the House of Worship can see the stone at the Visitors Center. While most cornerstones are set in a prominent location on the outside of a building, visitors may be surprised to find Nettie Tobin’s stone on the floor inside the building. Be sure to look for it the next time you come to visit.

* “The stone which the builders rejected has become the chief corner stone.” (Psalms: 118: 22)
Bill - ALWAYS Loved that story, brings a tear or two of immense joy to the eyes

God Bless and Regards Tony
 
Old 12-03-2014, 04:46 AM   #20
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Whoso ponders the lessons of history will learn that this sea has lifted up innumerable waves, yet in the end each has dissolved and vanished, like a shadow drifting by. The waves have perished, but the sea lives on. This is why Ali Qabl-i-Akbar could never quench his thirst, till the day when he stood on the shore of Truth and cried:

Here is a sea with treasure to the brim;

Its waves toss pearls under the great wind's thong.

Throw off your robe and plunge, nor try to swim,

Pride not yourself on swimming -- dive headlong.

Like a fountain, his heart welled and jetted forth; meaning and truth, like soft-flowing crystal waters, began to stream from his lips. At first, with humility, with spiritual poverty, he garnered the new light, and only then he proceeded to shed it abroad. For how well has it been said,

Shall he the gift of life to others bear

Who of life's gift has never had a share?

A teacher must proceed in this way: he must first teach himself, and then others. If he himself still walks the path of carnal appetites and lusts, how can he guide another to the "evident signs"[1] of God?
[1 Qur'án 3:91 ]

This honored man was successful in converting a multitude. For the sake of God he cast all caution aside, as he hastened along the ways of love. He became as one frenzied, as a vagrant and one known to be mad. Because of his new Faith, he was mocked at in Tihran by high and low. When he walked through the streets and bazars, the people pointed their fingers at him, calling him a Bahá'í. Whenever trouble broke out, he was the one to be arrested first. He was always ready and waiting for this, since it never failed.

Again and again he was bound with chains, jailed, and threatened with the sword. The photograph of this blessed individual, together with that of the great Amin, taken of them in their chains, will serve as an example to whoever has eyes to see. There they sit, those two distinguished men, hung with chains, shackled, yet composed, acquiescent, undisturbed.

Things came to such a pass that in the end whenever there was an uproar Mulla Ali would put on his turban, wrap himself in his aba and sit waiting, for his enemies to rouse and the farrashes to break in and the guards to carry him off to prison. But observe the power of God! In spite of all this, he was kept safe. "The sign of a knower and lover is this, that you will find him dry in the sea." That is how he was. His life hung by a thread from one moment to the next; the malevolent lay in wait for him; he was known everywhere as a Bahá'í -- and still he was protected from all harm. He stayed dry in the depths of the sea, cool and safe in the heart of the fire, until the day he died.

After the ascension of Bahá'u'lláh, Mulla Ali continued on, loyal to the Testament of the Light of the World, staunch in the Covenant which he served and heralded. During the lifetime of the Manifestation, his yearning made him hasten to Bahá'u'lláh, Who received him with grace and favor, and showered blessings upon him. He returned, then, to Iran, where he devoted all his time to serving the Cause. Openly at odds with his tyrannical oppressors, no matter how often they threatened him, he defied them. He was never vanquished. Whatever he had to say, he said. He was one of the Hands of the Cause of God, steadfast, unshakable, not to be moved.

(Abdu'l-Baha, Memorials of the Faithful, p. 11)
 
Old 12-08-2014, 01:38 PM   #21
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Educators have long known that the arts can contribute to student academic success and emotional well being. The ancient art of storytelling is especially well-suited for student exploration. As a folk art, storytelling is accessible to all ages and abilities. No special equipment beyond the imagination and the power of listening and speaking is needed to create artistic images. As a learning tool, storytelling can encourage students to explore their unique expressiveness and can heighten a student's ability to communicate thoughts and feelings in an articulate, lucid manner. These benefits transcend the art experience to support daily life skills. In our fast-paced, media-driven world, storytelling can be a nurturing way to remind children that their spoken words are powerful, that listening is important, and that clear communication between people is an art.
 
Old 12-08-2014, 01:46 PM   #22
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The National Storytelling Network is dedicated to advancing the art of storytelling – as a performing art, a process of cultural transformation, and more.

National Storytelling Network

There is so much to story telling, educational, humor, entertainment etc

As Baha'is who wish to teach we rapidly see in those who are most succesful the ability of story telling.
 
Old 12-08-2014, 01:53 PM   #23
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A philosophy professor stood before his class with some items on the table in front of him. When the class began, wordlessly he picked up a very large and empty mayonnaise jar and proceeded to fill it with rocks, about 2 inches in diameter.

He then asked the students if the jar was full. They agreed that it was.

So the professor then picked up a box of pebbles and poured them into the jar. He shook the jar lightly. The pebbles, of course, rolled into the open areas between the rocks.

He then asked the students again if the jar was full. They agreed it was.

The professor picked up a box of sand and poured it into the jar. Of course, the sand filled up the remaining open areas of the jar.

He then asked once more if the jar was full. The students responded with a unanimous “Yes.”

“Now,” said the professor, “I want you to recognize that this jar represents your life. The rocks are the important things – your family, your partner, your health, your children – things that if everything else was lost and only they remained, your life would still be full. The pebbles are the other things that matter – like your job, your house, your car. The sand is everything else, the small stuff.”

“If you put the sand into the jar first,” he continued, “there is no room for the pebbles or the rocks. The same goes for your life. If you spend all your time and energy on the small stuff, you will never have room for the things that are important to you. Pay attention to the things that are critical to your happiness. Play with your children. Take your partner out dancing. There will always be time to go to work, clean the house, give a dinner party, or fix the disposal.”

“Take care of the rocks first – the things that really matter. Set your priorities. The rest is just sand.”

Author Unknown
 
Old 12-08-2014, 03:51 PM   #24
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The National Storytelling Network is dedicated to advancing the art of storytelling – as a performing art, a process of cultural transformation, and more.

National Storytelling Network

There is so much to story telling, educational, humor, entertainment etc

As Baha'is who wish to teach we rapidly see in those who are most succesful the ability of story telling.
Story telling is an ancient art and custom in Ireland. At one time it was the only form of entertainment for many. Thence the storyteller was in great demand, invited to dine with people so he might entertain them. We are also aware of the Viking sagas. In Norse culture this was their way of recording and passing on history
 
Old 12-09-2014, 03:53 AM   #25
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Story telling is an ancient art and custom in Ireland. At one time it was the only form of entertainment for many. Thence the storyteller was in great demand, invited to dine with people so he might entertain them. We are also aware of the Viking sagas. In Norse culture this was their way of recording and passing on history
Yes deas friend, story telling is a welcome event everywhere in the world. Much respected and appreciated, Baha'is who are good at this art, are I feel, the best of teachers.
 
Old 12-10-2014, 11:44 AM   #26
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A Cherokee elder was teaching his children about life. “A fight is going on inside me,” he said to them. “It is a terrible fight and it is between two wolves. One is evil – he is anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego.” He continued, “The other is good – he is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith. The same fight is going on inside you – and inside every other person, too.” The grandchildren thought about it and after a minute one of them asked, “Which wolf will win?” The elder simply replied, “The one you feed.” (Source unknown)
 
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