Wednesday, January 30, 2013

On the Junior Youth Program Is For All Junior Youth: Like the Baha'i Houses of Worship are for all mankind

I remember when I first came to live in Wilmette. The Baha'is in the community didn't have their potlucks in the basement (the Foundation Room) of the House of Worship there. Why? Because Baha'i Houses of Worship aren't churches to serve just their parishioners. A Baha'i House of Worship is a gift to all mankind, a play for all to come and pray. The Baha'i-inspired Junior Youth Spiritual Empowerment Program is similar. It is for all junior-youth aged children, not just Baha'is. Ninety-six percent of the junior youth in our cluster are not Baha'is.

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Tuesday, January 29, 2013

On an Alternative to Back in the Day: Better Than Ever

I can't wait for the Eastside neighborhood Reflection Meeting on Saturday from 10-2 at Lister Elementary. I can't wait to witness the consultation among the friends and neighbors from Salishan, Sunrise, Swan Creek, Coventry Court, and Ainsworth Court. We're creating "a culture of learning and collaboration that draws on spiritual insights common to all religions and fosters positive social change," as they say on the Make Peace, Build Community page on Facebook. "Social change starts with spirituality—individuals unlocking their soul’s desire for service and working alongside others for the good of their neighborhoods and communities."

I don't want to go back to Back in the Day. I want to live in a neighborhood that is Better Than Ever.


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Monday, January 28, 2013

On an Educational Program With National Significance: Baha'is meet with the President of Guyana

Flag Guyana

In some nations of the world the progress of the Baha'i core activities have a recognized national significance. -gw

A five-year work progamme in communities across Guyana, taking the form of youth education programmes at different age levels and devotional meetings in select areas, has entered its second year for the Baha’i Faith in Guyana.

Jennifer Dewar and other members of the faith met President Donald Ramotar at his office today to explain to him their endeavours and the progress the religious group has been making since the programme started.

...  junior classes for youths 12 to 14; study circles for youths 15 and above seeks to equip beneficiaries with necessary work skills to, among other things, give their time and knowledge back to the programme.
“This is how we raise the teachers for the children’s classes and tutors for the study circle so that the process is self sustaining,” Dewar said in an invited comment to the Government Information Agency (GINA).

Baha’i Faith devotees apprise President of community activities

Sunday, January 27, 2013

On Brick By Brick: Katherine Key's Cornerstone

brick by brick, and stone by stone
we're building a fortress, we're building a home
we're building a cathedral for the ones to come
and you laid the cornerstone
Katharine Key has taken us to new ground with her new album. One of the most most surprising songs on  "what the fire is" is Cornerstone. The  harmonies of the background vocals that open the song caught me by surprise. Cornerstone has a wonderful "roots music" kind of sound. Katharine and Keny Ruyter are responsible for the arrangement. Called on were the Bonhoffs -- Maya for vocals and Jeff for the production,--  also Chris French for vocals, Wayne Wilentz: for piano and organ, and Kevin Burnes on guitar. Brick by brick, stone by stone, it all comes together perfectly. Great job, Katharine and Keny!  Still available for pre-release until the end of the month, "what the fire is" can be found here: - gw

His visit to Chicago provided the opportunity for ‘Abdu’l-Bahá to lay, with His own hands, the cornerstone of the first Bahá’í House of Worship in the West, a project inspired by the one already under way in ‘Ishqábád and likewise encouraged from the moment of its conception by ‘Abdu’l-Bahá.

Universal House of Justice, Century of Light

On Three Years of Building Relationships: Make peace, build community

I spent many hours the last several days pulling together a set of more than 1000 photos representative of the social space I have been working in the past three years -- three years of pictures taken at the practices and games of the Tacoma Invaders and the UTYA Tigers, and at the banquets, parties, devotionals, study circles, youth groups and children's classes which some players, their families and fans have attended. Make Peace, Build Community. -gw

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

On To Leave The World a Bit Better: Gives life meaning

Sara shared this link on Facebook, There's More to Life Than Being Happy. -gw
Having children, for example, is associated with the meaningful life and requires self-sacrifice, but it has been famously associated with low happiness among parents, including the ones in this study. In fact, according to Harvard psychologist Daniel Gilbert, research shows that parents are less happy interacting with their children than they are exercising, eating, and watching television.

"Partly what we do as human beings is to take care of others and contribute to others. This makes life meaningful but it does not necessarily make us happy," Baumeister told me in an interview.
Meaning is not only about transcending the self, but also about transcending the present moment -- which is perhaps the most important finding of the study, according to the researchers. While happiness is an emotion felt in the here and now, it ultimately fades away, just as all emotions do; positive affect and feelings of pleasure are fleeting. The amount of time people report feeling good or bad correlates with happiness but not at all with meaning.

Meaning, on the other hand, is enduring. It connects the past to the present to the future. "Thinking beyond the present moment, into the past or future, was a sign of the relatively meaningful but unhappy life," the researchers write. "Happiness is not generally found in contemplating the past or future." That is, people who thought more about the present were happier, but people who spent more time thinking about the future or about past struggles and sufferings felt more meaning in their lives, though they were less happy.   

Having negative events happen to you, the study found, decreases your happiness but increases the amount of meaning you have in life. Another study from 2011 confirmed this, finding that people who have meaning in their lives, in the form of a clearly defined purpose, rate their satisfaction with life higher even when they were feeling bad than those who did not have a clearly defined purpose. "If there is meaning in life at all," Frankl wrote, "then there must be meaning in suffering."

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Monday, January 21, 2013

On Finding God: Service to others is salvation for this radiant youth

A video on the Baha'i National Center channel that tells the story of a youth who came to serve junior youth, ages 11-14. He joins a Baha'i Study Circle and gains a greater understanding of our purpose in life. -gw 

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On a Topic For Frank Discussion at Feast: What can the old give the young?

O Lord! My bones are weakened, and the hoar hairs glisten on My head … and I have now reached old age, failing in My powers.’…

Abdu'l-Baha, quoted in God Passes By, byShoghi Effendi

As our community is transformed through its current focus on growth and expansion through embrace of the core activities for junior youth and children, Bonita puts in words (it takes her a moment to formulate her thoughts) what some long-time Baha'is may be thinking. What do you do if you're older and you question if you have anything of value to give to young people? -gw

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On What a Power Love Is: A junior youth group grows

There is no more thrilling experience than watching a junior youth group grow.

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On Finding a Place For Her Soul To Rest: A lot of exploring yet to do

"I want to canoe and camp and hike as much as I can before it's all gone," Bonita said. Looks like she and I will be busy in the months and years (God willing!) that lay ahead. -gw

The family camp at Jones Bay

The family camp at Jones Bay

96 photos, 4 videos | Edit

Bonita's Favorites: Lower Crab Creek


45 photos, 7 videos | Edit

Katy Lake - Camping

Katy Lake -Camping

54 photos | Edit

The View from the Camp Nuclear

The View fromthe CampNuclear

55 photos, 1 video | Edit

Clear Lake family camping

Clear Lakefamily camping

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Long Lake Campground

Long LakeCampground

57 photos, 2 videos | Edit

Camping at Beth Lake

Camping at Beth Lake

51 photos, 3 videos | Edit



127 photos, 3 videos | Edit

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On a Camping Place For the Heavenly Hosts: With the family in this early world

... [M]ay ... the earthly world may become a camping-place for the heavenly hosts.

Tablets of Abdul-Baha Abbas

This cold and foggy day in January I'm remembering lovely camping vacations in the warmth of June with my adult children. 

Clips are woven together in what i call a musical narrative. You get to imagine and see rather than having someone telling a story. I don't like a lot of dialogue in films, i could be quite content just watching real life moments or natural intimate moments unfold in real settings..

My son videographer Taraz's explanation of his technique here in this video. -gw 

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On Raising Capacity For Baha'i Expansion: Supporting new junior youth group animators

After Tigers junior youth group, Stephanie invites animator Sean to come to a meeting  to compare notes with other with other animators.

It is not a problem finding the children and youth who want to participate in the Baha'i core activities. The challenge is around finding the children's class teachers and animators willing to be accompanied. And so planning for the Area Teaching Committee becomes a matter of thinking in terms of capacity. I.e., how many more junior youth groups do we want to raise up in the next three months? What is our capacity to find and accompany the animators necessary? During the next cycle can we see the formation of 5 or 6 more groups and get them on firm-footing? The answer is, yes, because we have the knowledge, experience and a growing confidence here in Pierce County, Washington. -gw

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On Souls Whose Aim Is To Serve Humanity: Nice dance moves

God is the helper of those souls whose aim is to serve humanity and whose efforts and endeavors are devoted to the good and betterment of all mankind.

Oooh,, Anthony has some nice dance moves to the song the Tigers junior youth group is composing. Animators Stephanie and Sean have some powerful talents to work with.

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Friday, January 18, 2013

On This Dark World: Someone play that song again

Do you like a sad song? What's your view of the world? Are you an optimist or a pessimist? What is the basis for your worldviw? Are you a suffering soul? Where does suffering come from? -gw

Someone play that song again 
C'mon c'mon and I'm gonna see this world as it really is
Is it just a sad sideshow? 

-- Courtney Love's "Mono"

Before long you will see that new bounties and divine teachings will illuminate this dark world and will transform these sad regions into the paradise of Eden. 

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Thursday, January 17, 2013

On Losing Our Religion: Katharine Key's appropriately companion album

"what do you want?" she said 
"to know in my heart that God loves me" 
can't you pick something less daunting?" 

NPR is doing a Morning Edition series on "Losing Our Religion."

Listening to the series this week, I thought of the line above from  Katharine Key's "Plexiglass," the first song on her marvelous album "what the fire is" that  plumbs the depths of spirituality, an album full of great lines. 

If you haven't already, get your pre-release download of the album here through the end of January.

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Monday, January 14, 2013

On We Need Not Travel Long Distances to Serve: Think neighborhood

Baha'is everywhere need not travel long distances to serve, across cluster, state or nation. The call today is to look to where we live. What are the needs? What can we do to help our neighbors? How can we build community within our neighborhood? Don't live on the Eastside? No prob. We can teach right where we live -- support the core activities which constitute the building blocks for building community. Let's pray together with our neighbors (devotions), Baha'i or not, let's educate our children (children's classes) and our youth (junior youth groups), and let's study Scripture together (study circles). We change the character of our neighborhood, and thereby the world.  Stephanie elaborates. -gw

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On the Tigers Week Two: Spirit of junior youth group blossoms

Sean, Anthony's Dad. did an absolutely incredible job animating the UTYA Tigers junior youth group being held for just the second week in the community room of their apartment complex. Stephanie accompanied Sean ably. Mookie,  Terri, Isaiah, Eliza, and Anthony's friends from the neighborhood were able to join as well. Good times! -gw

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On Ye Are Even As the Fire: Let your light shine before men

Matthew 5:16 Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven. ... from the King James Bible ...

Ye are even as the fire which in the darkness of the night has been kindled upon the mountain-top. ... from words of Christ reiterated by the Bab 

Song sung before our Area Teaching Committee meeting. -gw

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Saturday, January 12, 2013

On the Case For God and Religion: God is transcendent and can't be defined

Bonita has been reading The Case for God  by Karen Armstrong, a book passed on to me by my colleague Anita at work. A premise of the book, my wife Bonita said (I have yet to be able to sit with the book), is that the way in which man defines God has changed and evolved historically, and the criteria for belief has also changed over time. making it harder for some to believe. Richard Dawkins and  Sam Harris are reactionaries to the fundamentalist interpretations. Someone who really understands religion defends religion from the human impulse of reducing scripture to the mundane. God is transcendent and can't be defined. -gw

Alas that humanity is completely submerged in imitations and unrealities, notwithstanding that the truth of divine religion has ever remained the same. Superstitions have obscured the fundamental reality, the world is darkened, and the light of religion is not apparent. This darkness is conducive to differences and dissensions; rites and dogmas are many and various; therefore, discord has arisen among the religious systems, whereas religion is for the unification of mankind. True religion is the source of love and agreement amongst men, the cause of the development of praiseworthy qualities, but the people are holding to the counterfeit and imitation, negligent of the reality which unifies, so they are bereft and deprived of the radiance of religion. They follow superstitions inherited from their fathers and ancestors. To such an extent has this prevailed that they have taken away the heavenly light of divine truth and sit in the darkness of imitations and imaginations. That which was meant to be conducive to life has become the cause of death; that which should have been an evidence of knowledge is now a proof of ignorance; that which was a factor in the sublimity of human nature has proved to be its degradation. Therefore, the realm of the religionist has gradually narrowed and darkened, and the sphere of the materialist has widened and advanced; for the religionist has held to imitation and counterfeit, neglecting and discarding holiness and the sacred reality of religion. When the sun sets, it is the time for bats to fly. They come forth because they are creatures of the night. When the lights of religion become darkened, the materialists appear. They are the bats of night. The decline of religion is their time of activity; they seek the shadows when the world is darkened and clouds have spread over it.
The Promulgation of Universal Peace by ‘Abdu’l-Bahá

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Friday, January 11, 2013

On Gearing Up For a Big Tacoma Ayyam-i-Ha Dance Party: We got a lot to celebrate

Ayyam-i-Ha is just around the corner. Already I'm thinking about this's year's celebration.. Last year we had a little house party. This year it's gotta be big and include all the Eastside junior youth. We got a lot to celebrate. -gw

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Thursday, January 10, 2013

On Kat Key's 'Where the Fire Is': Get inside this music

fire cover
Some people are just meant to make music. They may do other things, have other accomplishments, but they always come back to creating songs. Katharine – with an “a” – Key is one of those people.
Her new album “what the fire is” is coming out. You will find that the album, years in the making, has been worth every moment of the wait.  Although its official release comes in February, through the end of January 2013, you can sign up for pre-release downloads and CDs at
The title track may be the most exquisite song on an album full of exquisite and interesting songs. It features Katharine's piano, her first instrument. The text of the song comes entirely from the Baha'i Writings, as do two others on the album.
Katharine has a beautiful and expressive voice. This is sophisticated music and an absolutely first class production. Kat's voice and piano is complemented by the cello of Elise Cuffy, the string bass of Ian Rafalak, and drums by Keny Ruyter who also served as album producer, with Kelly Snook doing the final mixing. There are some background harmonies that add to the emotional punch. But it's certain qualities of Kat's voice that make this song feel so personal and intimate.
I beseech Thee, O my Lord, by this Fire which blazeth and rageth in the world of creation, to rend asunder the veils that have hindered me from appearing before the throne of Thy majesty, and from standing at the door of Thy gate. 
Deep and approachable. Anybody can get inside this music. And should. -gw

Wednesday, January 09, 2013

On Teaching Lessons Learned: Connecting souls to the Writings is key

This photo set reflects teaching going on in my community back in 2008 and earlier.

I googled "Baha'i fireside" and set my search for "past week" and got 4 pages of results. For example: - 03 days ago - Please join us for a fireside about the "The Central Figures of the Baha'i Faith 

and - 6 days ago - 'I got in contact with a good Baha'i friend of mine, and she arranged a fireside [discussion of the Faith] for Randi's family,' says Manfra. Randi, R.J. and Adriana ...

Personal teaching is our responsibility. Inviting someone over to our home to discuss the spiritual verities and to introduce them, if there is receptivity, to the the Cause of God is tested, tried and true. More recently Baha'is are becoming skills in home visiting for the same purpose

In reflecting upon those whom I have had the privilege of teaching since my family moved to Tacoma, my impression is that those souls who became connected to regular study of the Writings are actively serving years later. -gw

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Monday, January 07, 2013

On Not Being Perfect: Freeing ourselves up to contribute

In a gathering of youth and adults studying the deepening themes of Book 2, Arising To Serve, of the Ruhi study circle series, Helen references strategies we can use when we are irritated or annoyed so we can still contribute to the well-being of society. -gw

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On a Minute's Meditation: Receiving the breath of the Holy Spirit

Sometimes it takes just a minute to clear your head. -gw

Through the faculty of meditation man attains to eternal life; through it he receives the breath of the Holy Spirit--the bestowal of the Spirit is given in reflection and meditation.


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On Increasing the People's Well-being: Turn-of-the-Century Washington State

Can we maintain that it is contrary to the fundamentals of the Faith to encourage the acquisition of useful arts and of general knowledge, to inform oneself as to the truths of such physical sciences as are beneficial to man, and to widen the scope of industry and increase the products of commerce and multiply the nation’s avenues of wealth? Would it conflict with the worship of God to establish law and order in the cities and organize the rural districts, to repair the roads and build railroads and facilitate transportation and travel and thus increase the people’s well-being? ...
The winds of the true springtide are passing over you; adorn yourselves with blossoms like trees in the scented garden.

The Secret of Divine Civilization‘by Abdu’l-Bahá

The well-being of so many was enhanced by the industry of those laboring 100 years ago at the lumber mill in Eatonville WA. It was a springtime then, and its still a springtime now -- it just looks different today.

The mill's closure in 1954 was a blow to the town, but community spirit and good schools have kept Eatonville alive and growing..

On New Year's Day we stopped in one of Eatonville's finer establishments for elk burgers, joining a contingent of Brothers in Arms. -gw

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On Tigers Make Their Move: Sean and Amanda host junior youth

The Tigers Junior Youth Spiritual Empowerment group meet for the first time in the community room at Sean and Amanda's apartment complex on Saturday. Can a children's class in the same location be just around the corner?

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Saturday, January 05, 2013

On What the World Needs: Music at devotions

Maedeh, Trinie, Jaleschia & Bonita on the couch

In reverse order, here are the songs that played randomly, following some great German Baha'i rap that got people's attention, after prayers at the Tigers devotional on Thursday. Yeah, people were ready to bust a move. What I've learned: If music is playing, people don't want to leave.  -gw

Family Affair by Keb Mo'
I & I Survive by Burning Spear
Pilgrim's Chant by Hans Zimmer
Night Hath Succeeded Day by KC Porter
Fly by Gigi D'Agostino
What the World Needs by Naomi Judd 
Make Your Move by the Figureheads

On To Stand on the Shores of the Sea: And meditate on God's Covenant

I must go down to the seas again, to the lonely sea and the sky

Puget Sound is not an ocean. Call it an inland sea. This time of year is a great time to take it in, gray sky and all -- to stand on it shores  and contemplate the Covenant that God has with us all. -gw

O MY LORD, my heart’s Desire, Thou Whom I ever invoke, Thou Who art my Aider and my Shelter, my Helper and my Refuge! Thou seest me submerged in an ocean of calamities that overwhelm the soul, of afflictions that oppress the heart, of woes that disperse Thy gathering, of ills and pains that scatter Thy flock. Sore trials have compassed me round and perils have from all sides beset me. Thou seest me immersed in a sea of unsurpassed tribulation, sunk into a fathomless abyss, afflicted by mine enemies and consumed with the flame of their hate, enkindled by my kinsmen with whom Thou didst make Thy strong Covenant and Thy firm Testament, wherein Thou biddest them turn their hearts to this wronged one, to keep away from me the foolish, the unjust, and refer unto this lonely one all that about which they differ in Thy Holy Book, so that the Truth may be revealed unto them, their doubts may be dispelled and Thy manifest Signs be spread abroad.
The Will And Testament of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá

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