Royal Falcon and Bluebonnet

Pensacola Beach, FL; Jan 28-30, 2011; www.royalfalconschool.org

As Baha’i summer school season gets underway, this may be a good opportunity to recap the great time we had at the Alabama & Northwest Florida regional winter school in late January and at the Texas Bluebonnet Conference in February.

The Royal Falcon Baha’i School, as the regional school in Pensacola Beach, FL, is called, was as majestic as its name! The group gathered there was vibrant and friendly and ready to study, which they did intensively but tirelessly! Mr. Hooper Dunbar was the presenter, and he went through an excellent compilation of writings from Shoghi Effendi that he talks about in his book Forces of Our Time. Read about it on the school’s website and see photos on Facebook by clicking the photo and/or link above.

The bookstore manager sweetly included Hasten Forth in her presentation to school attendees about the book selection she had stocked, but it wasn’t because the book creators were involved in organizing the school! :) Thank you, Dianne!

Austin Convention Center, Feb. 19, 2011; www.bahaibluebonnet.com

Texas Bluebonnet Conference was a joy as well, in equal parts owing to the program as well as friends and family who attended. These sweet souls helped shop for the table decor, haul the stuff from the car at the loading dock, set up the display early morning and break it down late at night, and manned the booth whenever I needed to visit the ladies’ room. They were also my best salespeople, bringing friends and even strangers to check out the books and helping me answer inquiries when the crowds got hectic during breaks from the sessions! Thank you, Homa and Roya! :)

Thanks to this conference, we bought table cloths and flower vases and book racks to make an attractive display! My favorite new book seller tool, however, is the Intuit GoPayment mobile app! I was able to charge conference goers’ credit cards with my iPhone!!!!

I found the app too late to have the card swiper in time for Bluebonnet, and I still have yet to use it, but keying in the credit card information (none of which is stored in the hand-held device) was easy enough! I know it probably made a big difference in who was able to get the book because not many people carry cash these days.

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Bahá’í school mania!

Hasten Forth has been making the rounds of Bahá’í regional schools and conferences. These have been such uplifting experiences spent with loving and caring friends, that we wanted to give a shout out and say thank you to these far-flung places and people.

As mentioned in the first post, the book actually debuted at the Wings to the Spirit Conference, and we can’t wait to participate in the next one in 2012. Every artist we’ve encountered at each school and conference that has followed we’ve encouraged to check out the website and consider attending the Pensacola Beach, FL, gathering.

The pre-sale that began at Wings to the Spirit continued at the Mississippi Bahá’í School in June with a close-knit community, delicious soul-food for breakfast, lunch and dinner, and a full roster of joyful young people.

Our next stop was the Divine Art of Living conference in San Diego over Thanksgiving weekend. We sold all the books we brought with us and caught up with dozens of friends who converged on the town for the conference and a wedding!

We welcomed the new Gregorian year at the Louisiana Cypress Bahá’í School at Bogue Chitto State Park with a dozen adorable, deeply unified families. The air was rarefied by the release of two exciting messages from the Universal House of Justice on the eve of the first day and last day of the school.

But the fun doesn’t stop there!

At the end of this month we’ll take the books with us to our home state’s Bahá’í School – Alabama and NW Florida’s Royal Falcon School. This year’s presenter, Mr. Hooper C. Dunbar, is drawing a bigger crowd than ever to study the spiritual forces operating in our world – a recurring theme in the above-mentioned messages from the House of Justice.

And on deck is the Texas Bahá’í Bluebonnet conference! With an entire conference room in the Austin Convention Center dedicated just to vendors, this is sure to be a great opportunity to network with an army of people engaged in creative pursuits.

After that… who knows?! But it will be Ayyám-i-Há, so we’re sure to be busy!

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Happy Birth of Bahá’u’lláh!

Today, November 12, is the anniversary of the Birth of Bahá’u’lláh, the Prophet-Founder of the Bahá’i Faith.

For this special occasion, the Hasten Forth team has a gift for each of you:

FREE SHIPPING for a limited time on orders within the United States.

We are celebrating many things that finally signal the complete roll out of the Hasten Forth campaign.

First, there is this article about the history behind the idea and making of the book: http://www.bahai.us/hastenforthbook

Second, the book is showcased on this über cool website that I check regularly to see what new designs and talented designers are out there: http://www.designthefaith.com/2010/hasten-forth/

Third, we’ll be attending the Divine Art of Living conference in San Diego at the end of November, in which we’re facilitating a workshop. It will be based on our learning about eliciting purposeful, elevated conversations with people in such natural settings as the home. Our study of this topic has revealed fascinating information. It seems that the age-old practice of visiting people in their homes is so time honored because it works–serving multiple functions in community life… Stay tuned!

Please accept our gift of free shipping and consider ordering copies as gifts for your loved ones and acquaintances to “pay it forward.”

Click here to order. The special offer will last through November. We really want as many people as possible to get a copy of the book and starting putting it to good use.

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Hasten Forth Brochure

Check out this brochure for a detailed description and preview of “Hasten Forth: The Dispensation of Bahá’u’lláh,” a new coffee table book/home visit companion.

It is modeled and sub-titled after Shoghi Effendi’s 1934 message to the Baha’is of the West.
The book, like its namesake, seeks to relate the fundamental verities of the Baha’i Faith through photos, selections from the Sacred Texts and a narration of the history of the Baha’i Faith in the Holy Land.
The book is a virtual pilgrimage to Haifa and the Western Galilee region where the Baha’i World Centre properties are located, representing the spiritual and administrative center of the global Baha’i community. The structures are also listed as UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

Click here for new methods
of purchasing copies
of Hasten Forth

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Conozcamos la Fe Bahá’í

This photo, part of a large collection of images from literally around the world that can be found here: http://www.bahai.org/attaining/, is reprinted with the permission of the Bahá’í World Center.

A mother this morning decided to become a Bahá’í.

This photo and the one above remind me of the lovely visit this morning. For more images from Mongolia, Turkey, the UK, DRC, Kiribati & more, visit http://www.bahai.org/attaining/. © Baha'i World Center.

We visited her to talk about the Bahá’í children’s classes that her 7-year-old daughter has been attending in the neighborhood. We also wanted to know if she had any questions about the faith which the classes draw on to teach spiritual principles to the children.

While I held her 6-month-old son in my lap, she engaged us in deep conversation about the purpose of teaching children virtues such as truthfulness, justice and preferring others before oneself. Then she wanted to hear more about the teachings of the Bahá’í Faith. My friend began by sharing with her this quotation from Bahá’u’lláh:

“That which the Lord hath ordained as the sovereign remedy and mightiest instrument for the healing of all the world is the union of all its peoples in one universal Cause, one common Faith.” (Gleanings, Section CXX)

The mother repeated several times that she knew the only way we are going to make the world a better place is by working together rather than against each other. The education of children, we all agreed, is one of those goals we all have to work towards together.

She enjoyed learning about the faith and sharing with us her understanding of the teachings we were discussing, but I believe what most sparked her sincere faith in Bahá’u’lláh was listening to her daughter singing songs about unity, love and service to mankind. When we left, the daughter was teaching her baby brother those songs, and we all knew that these children will indeed contribute to the betterment of the world.

Because of the above and much more, this has been a good weekend, and there is lots to share.

  1. First of all, the long hiatus from posting to the blog and updating Facebook is gone… never to return.
  2. Second, the Hasten Forth books are now available for ordering on Palabra Publications and soon on Baha’i Distribution Service.
  3. Third and finally, coming soon are posts that we hope will make sharing the book an even richer experience, including topics such as:
  • “The Dispensation of Bahá’u’lláh” (the seminal piece of Bahá’í literature by Shoghi Effendi on which Hasten Forth was based)
  • The significant role architecture has played in the history of the Bahá’í Faith
  • The courage and strength of the Bahá’ís in Iran who are oppressed by the government for their religious beliefs
  • Answers to questions about how Hasten Forth is designed to help readers understand the Faith on many levels

More and more there are examples of just how helpful well-illustrated presentations have proven to be in making sure everyone is on the same page, so to speak, when discussing profound matters. I just came across this publication, which is a revitalized version of the booklet we used today in speaking with the mother of the two little ones: Conozcamos la Fe Bahá’í

You can also find snap shots of Bahá’ís around the world using a wide array of printed materials in all languages, sizes, colors, etc., by visiting the same photo collection as the images above: http://www.bahai.org/attaining/

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Words of encouragement

An Alabama writer (who has had five non-fiction books published) told me if it takes you a year longer than expected to write a book, then you are just like every other aspiring author out there.

An olive tree in Bahjí, near the Mediterranean coastline of northern Israel, where the Prophet-Founder of the Bahá'í Faith, Bahá'u'lláh, is buried.

In creating Hasten Forth, it took us more than three years from the day the idea was planted in our minds (“Inception?”) to finally holding in our hands the fruits of our labors: flipping through the book’s physical pages rather than scrolling through them on the computer!

This is why when we received note cards with words of encouragement and congratulations from two dear new friends who purchased the books, their thoughtfulness deeply touched our hearts. It made us want to reach out to anyone who has been or is now in the same boat — working diligently and faithfully and doggedly on any endeavor.

We want to share these sentiments with you:

“…all effort and exertion put forth by man from the fullness of his heart is worship, if it is prompted by the highest motives and the will to do service to humanity.”

- `Abdu’l-Bahá, quoted in J. E. Esslemont, Bahá’u'lláh and the New Era, 5th rev. ed. (Wilmette: Bahá’í Publishing Trust, 1987), 79.

“The important thing in life is not the triumph but the struggle.”

Pierre de Coubertin (The Hallmark card continues: “However, the triumph is also nice. Congratulations.”)

And finally, if you encounter obstacles along the way, don’t forget to ask for help: “Open Thou the door, provide the means, prepare the way, make safe the path.” – `Abdu’l-Bahá (These small requests often ran through our minds and escaped from our lips at the bumps, turns and crossroads in the path to self-publishing.)

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Perfections and their fruits

Tonight our local Baha’i community held its regular meeting called the nineteen day feast. One of the readings in the spiritual portion of the program seemed to summarize the whole message in Hasten Forth, so I am happy to share it on this blog along with other exciting news about the book. By the way, the current Baha’i month is named Perfections (or Kamal in Arabic), so we selected readings and prayers on this theme.

This is the century of the Blessed Perfection! This is the cycle of the light of His beauty! This is the consummate day of all the Prophets! These are the days of seed sowing. These are the days of tree planting. The bountiful bestowals of God are successive. He who sows a seed in this day will behold his reward in the fruits and harvest of the heavenly Kingdom. This timely seed, when planted in the hearts of the beloved of God, will be watered by showers of divine mercy and warmed by the sunshine of divine love. Its fruitage and flower shall be the solidarity of mankind, the perfection of justice and the praiseworthy attributes of heaven manifest in humanity. All who sow such a seed and plant such a tree according to the teachings of Bahá’u'lláh shall surely witness this divine outcome in the degrees of its perfection and will attain unto the good pleasure of the Merciful One.

- `Abdu’l-Bahá, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 8

Thinking about the bestowals of God not only brought to mind finishing the book we’ve devoted our time and energy to for the past three years, it also made me think of yesterday’s devotional meeting in our home. We host the gathering every Friday evening and, as we always tell our guests, we nourish our bodies (dinner) and then nourish our souls (prayers). Yesterday we had a full table and, afterwards, living room. Our friend from Mexico helped us make posole, an authentic Mexican dish, and later our friend from Yemen showed us her wedding video while we played with her adorable 10 month old baby girl. There were guests from three different religions, and the selections for the devotions came from the Bible, the Quran and Baha’i Writings. We were all so different, but it felt like we were with family as we sat together, some of us on the carpet so we could be eye level with the  baby, feeling relaxed and sharing our lives. This is what we always dreamed our devotional meetings would be: an opportunity for neighbors, friends and families to be able to be together in a positive, spiritual environment. The seeds for this weekly gathering were planted long ago. The devotion meeting has been held ever week without fail for two years. Sometimes there were only two people (and once only one!) but we always made sure that the prayers were being sent out into the community on their regular schedule. This, we believe, is part of the seed sowing.

Speaking of seed sowing… the Hasten Forth photo book has now blossomed from a digital file on our computer into pallets full of printed copies! The first shipment arrived this week and we have sent off the pre-sale orders that many kind souls placed in advance. Please let us know when they arrive and give us your impressions. The next shipment is arriving in late August. We’re going to begin blogging about using the book to strike up conversations about various aspects of the Baha’i Faith and the changeless Faith of God.

As I mentioned earlier, the above quote is one of the overarching themes in the chapters of Hasten Forth. We shared the book with last night’s guests and tonight’s Feast attendees. We can’t wait to share it with you!

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Circumambulation of Bahjí- from dawn until dusk

Flipping through the pages of Hasten Forth‘s first chapter, with its photos set in the northern Israel countryside of Bahjí, should feel like walking a slow circle around the Shrine and Mansion of Bahá’u'lláh. Likewise it should feel as if spending an entire day tracing the garden paths, with both inner and outer eyes wide open.

The sequence of photos begins with a long-shot of the Bahjí landscape taken from atop the gatehouse at the northern entrance into the grounds, which have been named to the UNESCO list of World Heritage Sites. Through the center of the photo there is a white pebble path leading to the gardens and Bahá’í Holy Places. The smooth, round rocks from the shores of the Galilee Sea crunch softly underfoot and cause visitors to slow down their normal rushed pace — a reminder to be reverent.

The series of photos carries readers to the perimeter of the section of gardens known as the Haram-i-Aqdas, which means “The Most Holy Court.” The images then proceed to encircle the Shrine and adjacent Mansion — the same path that pilgrims trace in solemn circumambulation.

According to merriam-webster.com, circumambulate means: “to circle on foot especially ritualistically.” Although the Bahá’í Faith is free from rigid rituals and ceremonies, encouraging instead moderation and simplicity, many Bahá’ís who visit Bahjí will reverently and prayerfully circumambulate the Shrine of Bahá’u'lláh.

`Abdu’l-Bahá describes the magnetism of the resting place of Bahá’u'lláh as, “the place around which circumambulate the Concourse on High.” Visitors to this consecrated Spot are eager to join such company in circumambulation.

Bahá’ís turn toward this Holy Place when saying their daily obligatory prayers. It is the outward expression of the inner act of turning toward God and His Manifestation. Likewise, physically circumambulating the Shrine is symbolic of an other-worldly orbit around the strongest Force of attraction there is to be found.

The title of our book, Hasten Forth: The Dispensation of Bahá’u'lláh, is drawn from an excerpt that in the same breath includes ‘circumambulate’:

Hasten forth and circumambulate the City of God that hath descended from heaven—the celestial Kaaba round which have circled in adoration the favored of God, the pure in heart and the company of the most exalted angels.” — Bahá’u'lláh, Tablet of Carmel.

Other Writings related to the concept of circumambulation include:

“Well is it with him that circleth around thee, that proclaimeth the revelation of thy glory, and recounteth that which the bounty of the Lord thy God hath showered upon thee.” – Tablet of Carmel, Bahá’u'lláh

“The glory of Sinai hath hastened to circle round the Day-Spring of this Revelation, while from the heights of the Kingdom the voice of the Son of God is heard proclaiming: ‘Bestir yourselves, ye proud ones of the earth, and hasten ye towards Him.’” – Bahá’u'lláh, The World Order of Bahá’u'lláh, Shoghi Effendi, p. 105.

“By the one true God, Elijah hath hastened unto My court and hath circumambulated in the day-time and in the night-season My throne of glory.” – Bahá’u'lláh, The World Order of Bahá’u’lláh, Shoghi Effendi, p. 105.

“The world passeth away, and that which is everlasting is the love of God. God willing, thou shalt circumambulate the True One in every world of His worlds and shalt be free from all else save Him….” – From a Tablet of Bahá’u’lláh in ‘A Compilation on Women’

It’s interesting that in three of these quotations we’re told both to ‘hasten forth’ and to ‘circumambulate.’ There seems to be a connection there. It’s instructive, then, that the pebble and rock paths (and other paths of broken red tiles) were put there to slow us down when we’re nearing our purpose. Very good life lesson.

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Graceful integration of the arts

This past weekend, the Hasten Forth team was at yet another gathering of people on fire with getting serious about advancing civilization.

Even though this particular group wasn’t focused primarily on the arts like the Wings to the Spirit Conference, we ran into artists nonetheless! In coming posts, we’ll tell you a little bit about some of these talented individuals and their projects.

At this seminar we studied the need for humankind to order its affairs, taking a modern perspective that brought out new insights about systems of governance of the past and that holds promise for the future. One neat aspect of the course of study was that we focused on the document on which Hasten Forth is based: Shoghi Effendi’s message “The Dispensation of Bahá’u’lláh found in the compilation titled World Order of Bahá’u'lláh. In a future post we’ll write a bit more about what we have learned over the years about this monumental document.

For this week’s post we’ll leave you with two videos, one shown at the Wings to the Spirit Conference and the other shot there.

Video from the conference: This one is a bit… rustic. This was the “official” announcement of the Hasten Forth project. It was captured with a cellphone camera and started a few seconds late. We went back and forth about whether to post it, and in the end its redeeming qualities won out.  If you’re wondering why the speaker is glancing behind her, it is because there was an accompanying PowerPoint presentation to introduce the distinguishing features and mission of Hasten Forth. We plan to post those slides for you in the coming days.

(If you’re wondering what was said in the beginning that was cut off, you can refer to our previous post about the primacy of Bahjí)

Video shown at the conference: beautiful and moving, yet simple and clear, portrayal of the words of the Universal House of Justice that calls upon artists all around the world to use their crafts and energies to help serve their communities: “A graceful integration of the arts into diverse activities enhances the surge of energy that mobilizes the believers.” (27 December 2005)

Graceful Integration of the Arts from Tutulia on Vimeo.

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Primacy of Bahjí

One of the first thoughts we want to share at the outset of this Web site and blog also happens to be one of the first objectives we had in creating the book and one of the first characteristics of the design layout that readers might notice. Coincidentally, the commemoration of the anniversary of the Declaration of the Báb is also a wonderful occasion for this reflection.

Bahjí, we are pleased to tell you, is first and foremost in the pages of Hasten Forth. We aimed to honor and celebrate the ascendancy of this most sacred place by treating the lead chapter, which visits the gardens and holy sites in Bahjí, with special attention. We hope this care is detected in the prominence of the photos, the space given to the quotations and the depth of the narration in the captions.

Choosing to model the book after the structure of Shoghi Effendi’s message “The Dispensation of Bahá’u'lláh” was a happy coincidence in terms of fulfilling our desire to feature Bahjí and underscore its significance. The message is organized by sections on, first, Bahá’u'lláh, followed by the Báb, then `Abdu’l-Bahá and, last, the Administrative Order. The four chapters of Hasten Forth mirror the same subjects, use the corresponding extracts that Shoghi Effendi selected to elucidate each portion of the message, and present a sequence of photos of the places in the Holy Land associated with these central Figures and Institutions of the Bahá’í Faith.

Chronologically, the chapter titled “The Báb” would lead off the book, but we feel the Guardian, in “Dispensation,” was instructing Bahá’ís to understand that the second of the Twin Manifestations to reveal Himself was actually the first because of His supremacy.

Many photo montages of the Bahá’í sites in the Holy Land feature, prominently – and sometimes exclusively – the Shrine of the Báb, with its adorning terraced gardens stretching from the foot of Mount Carmel to the summit. With the Shrine’s structural majesty, expansive visibility and breathtaking beauty, not to mention the exalted station of each Messenger of God, there is obviously nothing wrong with this. This trend left a space, however, for a book of photos that is devoted, above all, to the glory and significance of Bahjí and to the Personage to whom the sacred grounds are dedicated in worship.

In the foreword to Hasten Forth, Kiser Barnes touches on the fascination with and attraction to the place where the latest Manifestation of God lived for nearly a quarter of a century. Mr. Barnes points to the words of Bahá’u'lláh: “In the eyes of God … all the places of the earth are one and the same, excepting that place which, in the days of His Manifestation, He doth appoint for a particular purpose.” (Kitáb-i-Íqán, p.151)

While the Concourse on High circumambulates the Shrine of the Báb, this focal point, then, revolves around the resting-place of Bahá’u'lláh in Bahjí. Bahá’ís turn towards the direction of this sacred spot, known as the Qiblih, or Point of Adoration, when saying their daily obligatory prayers. Someday, a superstructure will be erected at the site of the Shrine of Bahá’u'lláh to further exalt its glory on this earthly plane. Although there is yet more to come in development of the expansion and structures, there is no mistaking its paramount importance to the Bahá’ís. It is the first visit in the Bahá’í pilgrimage program.

In this book, we wanted to praise the primacy of Bahjí and the station of Bahá’u'lláh. Shoghi Effendi, in “Dispensation” writes, “To strive to obtain a more adequate understanding of the significance of Bahá’u'lláh’s stupendous Revelation must, it is my unalterable conviction, remain the first obligation and the object of the constant endeavor of each one of its loyal adherents. An exact and thorough comprehension of so vast a system, so sublime a revelation, so sacred a trust, is for obvious reasons beyond the reach and ken of our finite minds. We can, however, and it is our bounden duty to seek to derive fresh inspiration and added sustenance as we labor for the propagation of His Faith through a clearer apprehension of the truths it enshrines and the principles on which it is based.” (World Order of Bahá’u'lláh, p. 100)  We hope Hasten Forth captures this process.

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