Posts Tagged ‘religion’

shakira-brown.jpgSometimes, you find wisdom in the most unlikely places or when you are least looking for it. This morning, over my breakfast of peanut butter and celery (South Beach diet, anyone?) I was reading last Friday’s New York Times. As I said in an earlier post, I am always behind the curve when it comes to my reading. I came across this sweet feature story about a New York inner city middle school teacher who had been chosen by a scientist to accompany him and his crew on a science expedition to Antarctica. She was chosen so she could return and inspire her students to study science – a sort of inner-city Krista McAuliffe (with a happier outcome, I am sure)
I’m reading along when I come to this quote from the teacher, Shakira Brown, who was relating how she went from studying to be a doctor (big bucks) to studying to become a teacher (little bucks). She is all of 29 years old, and this is what she said:

“I prayed over it, and that’s where I was led,” she said. “When you pay attention to where you’re supposed to be, when you operate inside your gift, it just becomes easy. I found my gift; my gift found me.”

Right in the middle of a crunch of celery, there it was – a lightbulb moment – “When you pay attention to where you’re supposed to be, when you operate inside your gift, it just becomes easy.”

It made me think how much time I spend NOT paying attention to my gifts – worrying that some job or task is beyond me, or that I’ll never achieve this or that. I am sure I am not alone in this.  What might we gain – in terms of our faith, in terms of our personal accomplishments, in terms of our service to others – if we “paid attention” and “operated inside our gifts?”

I wish Shakira Brown all the luck and happiness and success in the world. In looking to serve her students, she has given me something to think on, and – again, in her words – “pray over.”

Does anyone out there have a story to share about how they learned to operate within their gifts and what they learned from that?

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bahai-star.jpgI feel like starting with Baha’is and their prayer beads. Why? Don’t know. Not the oldest religion or the oldest prayer beads. Not the newest, either. Maybe I just feel like going alphabetically. No, I think I saw a picture of a set of Baha’i prayer beads as I was web-surfing the other day and I just felt like starting there. And I’ve had enough Christian prayer beads and rosaries after six weeks of Lent. And Baha’is are a good place to start because it is an extremely inclusive religion – they have never met a major prophet they didn’t like.

So, what is the Baha’i faith? It was founded about 150 years ago in the land that was once called Persia and is now known as Iran. Like many religions, it was founded by someone who had an extreme mystical experience that forever changed his life. The founder of the Baha’i faith was a Persian nobleman named Bahá’u’lláh. Bahá’u’lláh claimed to be a messenger of God, a continuation of – not a repudiation of – the line of God’s prophets that began with Abraham (Judaism) and continued through Muhammad (Islam). His main message was that there is only one God and that all the other prophets and their followers were all of His children who should be united in their love for Him and for each other. I often think of the Baha’i faith as the ultimate feel-good religion (and I mean that as a very good thing).

Who are the Baha’is? Relatively speaking, their numbers are small. Adherents. com lists 7.6 million worldwide, with perhaps 700,000 in the U.S. But their blanket is quite wide, with Baha’is today coming from more than 2,100 different ethnic and tribal groups, according to Baha’i International. The majority of Baha’is live in Iran, where many are persecuted for their faith.

Bahai’s have about the best description of prayer I have ever come across – they see themselves “in conversation with God,” with whom they are “speaking a language of love.” One of the ways they pray was spelled out by Bahá’u’lláh in his Kitab-i-Aqdas:

It hath been ordained that every believer in God, the Lord of Judgement, shall, each day, having washed his hands and then his face, seat himself and, turning unto God, repeat “Alláh-u-Abhá” ninety-five times. Such was the decree of the Maker of the Heavens when, with majesty and power, he established Himself upon the thrones of His Names.

Some industrious Baha’i invented prayer beads that would aid in keeping track of the 95 repetitions of God’s name. One setbahai-prayer-beads-2.jpg is a circle of 95 beads, with the first 19 either separated from or different from the rest. The second type is usually a strand, rather than a circlet, with three parts – a line of 5 beads, a transition bead, and a line of 19 beads. The strand is often finished with a tassel, called a “siyyid,” and the nine-point star that is the symbol of the Baha’i faith. The website 95 Prayers suggests the devotee sit with the 19 beads in his or her dominant hand and the 5 beads in the other hand. At each repetition of “Allah-u-Abha,” the fingers move down the strand of 19 until it hits the tassel. Then, the fingers of the non-dominant hand move down one bead on the line of 5, and the process is begun again. 5×19=95.bahai-prayer-beads-1.jpg

In a forthcoming entry, we’ll talk with a Baha’i about their use of prayer beads. Until then . . . happy beading and praying.

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