Road to Healing – Lenten Journey 2014
Day 40:
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They woke me up to take my vitals. I had been through the routine for the last couple of days, but today

it was different. First the polite bow by the nurse, “How are you feeling, sir? Any pain?” Then they fumble around the IV tubes, cuff your arm. As your blood pressure is being taken, the nurse puts the plastic tip of the thermometer in your ear and one by one the readings are recorded. Temperature. Blood Pressure. Pulse. All systems are fine.

“I have some pain.”

“Just press the button, sir.”

You press the button and slowly you enter into a comfort zone. But today I was okay without the mix of narcotics into my drip. Even more, I knew that as some point I needed to wean myself off of the drugs. Let no one be fooled it’s tempting because it’s quick and effective. But today it’s over. I’m not pressing that button. I’m out of here.

I hear a voice, “Do you want to be healed?”

Yes! I do. No one else can make that decision but me. I want to be complete. I want to be whole.

Yes! I do… I am.


It was forty days ago that we took our first steps on this journey together, on the Road to Healing. We’ve encountered ideas, thoughts, faith, strength and courage along the way. We’ve explored love, God, strength from within and without as antidotes to our disease and despair. And while every journey traveled on the plane of this Earth has a beginning and an end, we understand that our journey has been one of ascent. We are traveling upward, with no boundaries to the heights we can achieve.

In the Gospel of John we read the story of Mary and Martha and their brother Lazarus. They were close friends of Jesus who lived in the town of Bethany. The scripture says that Jesus loved them dearly. The young man Lazarus fell ill and died.

Jesus rounded up the disciples and began the trip to Bethany. While still on the road to Bethany, Martha ran out to greet him. She has complete faith in the power of Christ. “Lord,” she says, “If you had been here, my brother would not have died. But even now I know that God will give you whatever you ask of him.”

Jesus assures her, “Your brother will rise again.”

Martha knows that for sure. She says, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.”

Jesus replies, “I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die.”

At this point, Jesus asks for a confirmation to his words, “Do you believe this?”

Martha replies, “Yes, Lord, I believe that you are the Son of God, the one coming into the world.”

A few moments later, near the tomb, Jesus has the same conversation with Lazarus’ other sister Mary. And she confirms her faith as well.

The miracle takes place. After four days in the tomb, Jesus pulls Lazarus out to full life and full recovery! Needless to say, the people are astonished and the details of this story are distributed throughout the land.

This story is often called the Resurrection of Lazarus. What I propose to you that this is more about Martha and Mary than about Lazarus. True, their brother received the miracle of life, but both Martha and Mary were transformed at that moment of healing. They confessed a faith in a future event, “… he will rise on the last day.” Jesus, with his presence and his words, transformed time itself. No longer is resurrection a thing of the past, but in the immediate present, the here and now, the eternal “I AM” the Resurrection and the Life!

On this 40th Day on the Road to Healing I offer the primer. It is the code which opens the rest of the treasures of faith in all of Armodoxy. It is found in the 29th verse of a hymn written by St. Nersess Shnorhali. He writes, “The Name of Love is Jesus.” Herein lies the truth we have been searching – Love is the resurrection and the life! Believe in Love and you conquer illness, disease, despair, heartbreak and even death. It is transforming and liberating. It is offered to you, not as a final destination on this Road to Healing, but on your path towards ascent to the heavenly dimensions of Faith, Hope and Love.


Hi this is Fr. Vazken. I trust and hope that this Lenten Season was a spiritually uplifting one for you on the Road to Healing. I invite you to get involved in further explorations of faith as we explore Christ and the Blessings in our Life. Join us on, the voice of Armodoxy where you’ll find a special series for the Holy Week in front of us. Also, I’ll be sharing some post-surgery insight with you. Stay tune.

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Photo: Armenian Monastery by Christaphor Movsesian (2013)
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Road to Healing – Lenten Journey 2014
Day 39:
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No doubt many of you have passed by an art gallery with a quick glance in and then continued to walk.

Art either talks to you or it doesn’t. When I walk past a gallery, curiosity is the first lure that gets me to glance at the work in the window. And then, there’s a quick assessment. Do I like what I see or not? I’m a sucker for the surrealists, so even a small Salvador Dali in the corner will get me to walk through the door. But once I’m in I’m pretty quick on deciding whether I’m going to spend some time looking at the pieces or not. My attention span is pretty short in general and even shorter when I don’t get the artwork. I know this is an age issue. When you’re younger you can find more time to look, evaluate and even pretend you understand some of the stuff. But at this point in my life, I know what I like and if I don’t, I don’t mean any disrespect but I just walk away. I’m usually not critical of the artwork, realizing that beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but on a few occasions I have mumbled under my breath a question or two about the validity of the work as “art.”

There is one gallery, though, that I have never been able to pass without stopping by for a look. I’d venture to say that many of you share my same experience. It happens every time I look out that large window that extends to the edge of my peripheral vision and captures the sunset. And though I’ve seen hundreds, perhaps thousands of sunsets, I never tire of casting a look and letting my imagination be pulled down the horizon as it marks the end of the day.

Sometimes I’m lucky, especially at the beach. Clouds will cover parts of the Sun, making for streamers that rise to the heavens. Other times it combines with the atmosphere to produce colors so unique and subtly different from the standard chart of colors. Have you ever noticed, you can never capture a sunset exactly on film or on canvas? You can come close to mimicking the colors, but never an exact copy. Each sunset is a beautiful combination of fire, clouds, atmosphere and the hand of God. Different shapes and diffusions decorate this artwork from the master of all eternity.

Each sunset points to the inevitable truth of our life, namely that time moves forward and we are called to value each moment in that movement. As the sun moves on its path below the horizon, we realize that the moment and the day will never come back. Enjoy the moment for what it is. And as your mind goes for the ride below the horizon your imagination is called upon to dream of tomorrow.

From the sunset we understand that the past is completely guaranteed. No question about it: it happened. The present is happening; you are given a chance to enjoy as brief as it may be. And the future? It’s completely and totally unknown. You can plan, work, sweat, toil and struggle for a bright future, but at some point you have to take it on faith that tomorrow will arrive and trust that you will be a part of it.

A healthy lifestyle has this basic trust component built into it. Without this trust, there is no life.

There is no guarantee that the Sun will rise tomorrow morning, but if each night you went to bed with the fear that it would not, you’d cease to function. Your time and energy would be consumed with unnecessary worry. Because the Sun has a strong track record, that is, every day of your life it has risen, and you have on good authority that it has done so for last several million years; you therefore assign a high level of trust to it. Not so with your illness though. Health – physical, emotional, mental – has let you down, so you’ve assigned a lower level of trustworthiness to it.

Today is the day to move trust in your health up a few notches. We trust that there will be new sunrise tomorrow morning and with that we put our head on the pillow. What does it take to believe the same about life? Part of the healing process is to believe and trust in yourself and the life that has been created around you. All around you is the fingerprint – the artwork – of God. Your only response to it is to trust that your life is adorned and decorated by God.

These past few weeks we have been on the Road to Healing and have tossed around many ideas. The lessons of each day are all predicated on trust. Just as a new sunrise tomorrow morning is unquestionable, so too the healthiness of your life must be trusted.

Here is a prayer of healing from the Armenian Church,
Lord our God, take away the pain and heal the sickness of your people. Grant them all complete health by the sign of your all-triumphant cross, by which you took away the frailty of the human race and condemned the adversary of our life and salvation. You are our life and salvation, O Merciful God. You alone are able to forgive sins and to drive pain and sickness out of us. And you know how to cure our afflictions. O Giver of good gifts, give your creatures the gift of your abundant mercy, each according to their needs. Let us always glorify and praise the all holy Trinity, Father, Son & Holy Spirit.

I look forward to meeting with you tomorrow as we continue on the Road to Healing.

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Photo: Sunset over San Francisco (c)2005 Fr. Vazken Movsesian
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Road to Healing – Lenten Journey 2014
Day 38:
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Our first parish was in a town called Cupertino about 50 miles south of San Francisco, an area that was developing its identity as Silicon Valley as we were developing our identity as a family. All of our children were born here.

A pastor’s family is always blessed with having so many aunts and uncles. The kind people of the parish and our family engaged in what I call reciprocal-adoption. It was a special time in our life, and very rich with “family” especially considering that both my and my wife’s parents, brothers, sisters and their children all live well over 400 miles away in Southern California.

My brother found every opportunity he could to come and visit with us and his nephews. He’d take the 1 hour airplane trip up the coast and we’d be on the receiving end to pick him up at San Jose Airport. Many times we’d get there a bit early and park our car at the end of the runway and watch the planes take off and land. We’d do it for the boys but I think it was obvious who got the most excitement out of these excursions. And then, when that big Southwest airplane rumbled the air above us and landed down aways, I’d point to it and tell the kids, “There’s Uncle Haig! Let’s go pick him up.” We’d drive over to the terminal in time to watch him come off the plane.

After the weekend – or sometimes we’d be lucky and get him a bit longer – we’d take Uncle Haig to the airport. This time we’d walk him all the way to the gate (yes, this is a bit of pre-9/11 history), say our good-byes and watch the plane back out. San Jose Airport was perfect for plane watching. We’d get in the car and go to the end of the runway. As the plane took off from the tarmac to the sky we’d wave, “Bye Uncle Haig!”

Now when the kids were very small, when we’d get home they’d be playing in the yard and their sharp senses would spot a plane high up in the sky. They would get so happy and excited as they pointed to the small object in the sky, “Look dad. Look mom. There’s Uncle Haig.”

In response to their cuteness, we’d play along with an assuring, “There he goes… wave to him…”

At various times – perhaps days or even weeks later – between visits, our kids would spot a plane say with the same enthusiasm as moments after the flight took off, “There’s Uncle Haig.” And with their little hands they’d wave to the plane high up in the sky.

It was on one of his visits that my brother figured out that our children thought that he was in a perpetual state of flight! They would say goodbye to their uncle at the airport… He’d get on the plane… then the next time they’d see him he’d be coming off the plane. For all they knew, he was always in flight until the next time they’d see him, once again coming off the plane. Think of it in terms of a 3 or 4 year old. Without the knowledge that planes land elsewhere to deliver and pick up passengers, you would assume the flight has a circular route, beginning and ending with you. Why would you think otherwise? As we mature, our world view changes and our understanding of the world develops as we connect the dots between events, places, people and feelings. And soon we, as did my kids, have a new understanding. Uncle Haig got on a plane to come to see us… he lives somewhere else… he needs to return to that somewhere else… and we look forward to his next visit.*

As much as you don’t want your children to grow up with a skewed perception of reality, there is something to be said about the naiveté and innocence of their primal understandings of life.

Francis Bacon has said, “Knowledge is power.” Now it remains for us to understand what that power is. As we are moving forward on this Road to Healing, we have matured in many ways. Through our meditations and prayers, we have connected dots between our illnesses, their causes and our control (or lack of control) over the variety of factors in the healing process. But understanding doesn’t necessarily mean control over events. Rather, it means reconciliation and control over our self.

Understanding that the plane doesn’t stay up in the sky forever, doesn’t mean we control the flight nor do we have the power to alter its properties. The power is in our ability to reconcile and take control of our self.

Here is a prayer for this day of our journey. It is an ancient Armenian blessing, appealing to the Holy Cross along with a simple meditation: The Cross of Christ can be understood or misunderstood. Its understanding does not change reality, but brings reconciliation and control over our lives.

Keep us in peace, O Christ our God, under the protection of your holy and precious cross; save us from our enemies, visible and invisible, and count us worthy to glorify you with thanksgiving, with the Father and the Holy Spirit, now and forever. Amen.

I look forward to meeting with you again tomorrow on the Road to Healing.

*Disclaimer: Space and time were not altered, skewed or changed as a result this blog.

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Photo: Plane Cloud by Sona Smith (2014)
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Road to Healing – Lenten Journey 2014
Day 37:
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Hosanna is an exclamation of praise. It’s used in the Bible to express adoration, praise and joy. It is also used as a name in the Armenian culture. I’ve met many Hosanna’s through the years. Some have abbreviated their name and go by Osan or even Hosi! (I always like that derivative of the name – it just sounds fun, doesn’t it? Hosi!)

But the lady who sits in the 3rd pew of our church goes by the full name, Hosanna. She attends church religiously – as if there’s any other way to attend! For her there isn’t. She comes every Sunday with her husband of 60 years. Last year when they celebrated their 60th Anniversary, I made a point of congratulating them in church just before the sermon. As I announced this milestone to the congregation, this cute couple got up and took a modest bow and she shared a blessing with everyone – wishing that others could enjoy this many years. And then she shared her formula for success, “60 years and never a crossed look or an argument between us!”

Yeah, I know, Dr. Phil and the lot will probably suggest some repressed or suppressed emotions. Actually, I have my own theories about how this marriage has lasted, but hey, at this point does it matter? Let’s just say, thank God that they want to share the wealth with their blessing.

Last Sunday Hosanna was missing from church. I have to confess that I didn’t notice until after services when her children approached me and told me that she had gone to the hospital and wanted to receive Holy Communion. I didn’t ask too many questions, but promised I’d visit that day.

I took a portion of the reserved Sacrament and headed out. As life would have it I didn’t make it to the hospital until late that evening. There was about a half-an-hour left before visiting hours were over.

When Hosanna saw me, her beautiful and wrinkly face stretched out a large smile and a thousand notes of appreciation. Her joy was of the variety that I imagined Ed McMahon would see when he dropped off the Publisher’s Clearing House check, back in the day. People just don’t get this happy to see me, but Hosanna was letting everyone know – not only the lady in the bed next to her, but those in the beds in the rooms adjacent and across the hall from her. For a few moments I thought the nurses might come by to see what was going.

To this lady who was born in Syria, moved to Beirut, raised children, fled wars in the Middle East, survived various difficulties and arrived to a safe haven in America, getting some nerves, bones and muscles repaired was nothing to complain about. Her priest had come to visit her and was delivering the Blessed Sacrament – an opportunity to communicate on an intimate level with her Lord and God.

We talked the good part of the half hour I was with her. She was incredibly worried that I wasn’t comfortable, asking the nurse several times to adjust the pillows on my chair.

After I read the prayer of confession and offered her the Holy Communion she was relieved. She knew better days were ahead of her.

I could end this story by saying that she received a blessing, but that’s far from where this story ends. Sunday was a long day, filled with many challenges, but as I left the hospital room I realized I was touched and healed that night.

In life we are searching for meaning and purpose. As a priest, dealing with intangible realities such as faith, hope and love, you sometimes (more often than not for me) question the value of your work and ministry. Unlike other work, the ministry doesn’t provide immediate results – whether it’s praying for a sick person, someone in rehab, a divorced couple or working for justice in war-torn lands, on the streets of Los Angeles or in the Church itself. There are many times of doubt. Hosanna gave me a blessing. She filled my life with purpose and a renewed spirit.

If you look at your life, you will find that what you do and what you live are filled with blessings. Remember faith, hope and love may not provide immediate results, but that doesn’t discount their power. You just need to do what you do and leave the rest to God.

As I left her side I knew she was healed. There was no doubt in my mind, because I know there was no doubt in her mind. I was healed. There was no doubt in my mind and most probably she never imagined that her priest was hurting that night. That’s the power of a blessing and love. At the door way, I looked back and said, “I’ll see you Sunday in Church.”

She responded, “Of course, it’s my name day!”

This Sunday is Palm Sunday. Our Lenten Journey will be coming to an end. Hosanna. It’s the day Christ came into Jerusalem. It’s the day Christ comes into the Holiest Centers of our Lives and we say Hosanna. A message of praise, adoration and joy.

This is Fr. Vazken, looking forward to walking on the Road to Healing again with you tomorrow.

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Recurring Disease (Lessons from Rwanda)

Road to Healing – Lenten Journey 2014
Day 36:
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Twenty years ago today the Rwandan people woke up to the reality of Genocide. It lasted for 100 days

and claimed a million lives.

A few years back I had an opportunity to visit Rwanda. For me it was a chance to see what I had heard about only through stories. While I didn’t know much about Rwanda, I had grown up with stories of the Armenian Genocide. My grandparents were survivors. My parents were first generation survivors and well, in many ways I am a survivor, having to reconcile with the reality that such a heinous crime could have occurred.

Illness and disease reoccur. Sometimes they are passed along in genes. Sometimes they are passed along as viral infections – they are mimicked and copied from one person to the next. Illness needs to be addressed. Disease cannot be ignored.

Suicide is killing the self. Homicide is killing another person. Genocide, as the name suggests, is killing off the entire gene-pool. Killing is killing, but how can we comprehend killing at this magnitude and in such proportions?

During my stay in Rwanda I met with many survivors who shared their stories. It was surprisingly similar to the stories I had heard from my grandparents: Round-ups in the night, the men taken away, the women raped, the children left to die. In fact at one point the stories were too similar for comfort. One day we were driving on a bridge over the Nile River. Our guide pointed out that at one point during the course of the Genocide, there were so many dead bodies and blood flowing through the river that it was known as the “Red Nile.” Of course, I had heard the same stories, only in Armenia it was the “Red Euphrates” that they referenced.

One of the most disturbing moments during my trip came at the Genocide Museum in Kigali. I was following the exhibits and stories of the Genocide that were mounted on the walls and in cases. In that museum I was immediately made color blind, because the only difference between the children and people in the photos and my own ancestry was the color of our skin. But it was unnoticeable. I was looking back in time at the events of the Armenian Genocide of 1915 here in the museum which documented the Genocide of 1994.

I was moved to tears from these eye-witness accounts. I must have been a terrible mess because the sight of me crying brought one of the museum staff to my aid. She introduced herself to me. “Is everything OK? May I be of assistance?”

I introduced myself and apologized for my outburst. I explained that the stories of the survivors, the children and the widows were stories that I had heard growing up. I explained to her that my grandparents were survivors of genocide. And then it happened. She asked me a question which has haunted me ever since that day. She asked, “Which Genocide?”

Can you imagine? This is the 21st Century and we’re still asking “Which Genocide?” You would think that a civilization that can explore space and develop vaccines for polio and smallpox, could certainly find a way of resolving conflicts without wars, let alone genocide. But here we were, in a museum, attesting to the fact that we are unable to cure the most dreaded of all diseases: hatred.

Illness and disease reoccur. Sometimes they are passed along in genes. Sometimes they are passed along as viral infections – they are mimicked and copied from one person to the next. Illness needs to be addressed. Disease cannot be ignored. Today you are on the Road to Healing because you have identified the disease; you are traveling because you are not ignoring it. Once out of your system, you cannot allow it to come back to take over again. Today, you know that there is no other answer but to eradicate the illness forever.

When we appeal to love as the answer, we have to understand that it is the ultimate weapon against our troubles, whether on a global level or on a personal level. You see, hatred breeds hatred. The ill cells in your body breed more cancers. Personalities and patterns of living infect others through our interactions and ultimately continue to live and wreak havoc another day. We are looking for a healing and understand that it must be complete.

Let us pray, the prayer of Healing,
Healer of infirmity, Physician of the physicians, Light and Love of the world, dispel the pain and heal the sickness of your people by beginning with me. Give me the strength to stand today noting my illness and receiving a complete healing. Fill me with your love and allow me to spread that love through my life and my deeds so that this disease will never go beyond me. It has been defeated. With true faith in the miracle, let it be! Amen.

This is Fr. Vazken, looking forward to continue on the Road to Healing with you again tomorrow.

Photo: “Meeting Grandma” 2006
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Future Consciousness

Road to Healing – Lenten Journey 2014
Day 35:
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There’s a palm reader down the street from us. She does a brisk business. People come by to get a peek

at the future. Growing up around Armenian coffee (yes, that’s the PC way to say it around here) made me aware of the practice of reading the grinds for a glimpse into life yet unlived. The unknown is intriguing and very profitable. Astrology is a multi-billion dollar industry.

A few days ago we looked at anxiety in our life and followed it up with lessons on risking. If anything this would seem like a formula for aggravated worry and a walk backward on the Road to Healing. But today, let us understand risking as a part of accelerated living. As such, risking is not about adding anxiety to life, rather it is an answer to anxiety. It sounds strange but I ask you to think about it for a moment. By living, you actually answer anxiety and fear head-on. You are now taking control of your own life. What happens in your life is not dependent on outside forces.

One of the appealing features of future-forecasting is that it reduces responsibility. If your destiny is already written out for you, you don’t have to take responsibility for your life. “The stars were aligned,” “It was in my palm,” “The cards came out like that,” are all convenient excuses, just like, “The devil made me do it.”

The reason we are seeking healing for our illness and problems, is because disease has taken away our responsibility for life. It may not be about cards, palms or stars, but it’s about the cancer, the addiction, the temper, the anger and the genes. It’s a way of tossing the blame elsewhere. I’m not to blame for my illness… my anger, my genes, my hormones, my personality is skewed and I am not responsible. But we are here for a healing, therefore we want to take responsibility for our life and it begins by taking responsibility for our place in life today.

Religion is one of the number one killers of responsibility. Unfortunately, religion – especially the Western varieties – has an element of future-forecasting built into it and followers of the religion forfeit their right to live tomorrow by grabbing a chunk of pre-destiny and concerning themselves with end-times.

For instance, in Christianity, there is the concept of a final judgment, linked to the “Second Coming” of Christ. There are those who calculate, speculate and wait in anticipation of this day, much like those who wait for someone else to take care of their ills and problems. All the while, life passes by.

I have been intrigued by the Armenian Orthodox understanding of the Second Coming because the emphasis is not on tomorrow but on today. It is found in the lectionary reading on the day of Advent. Jesus is put to a test to reveal the greatest commandment. His response is, “Love the Lord God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength. Love your neighbor as yourself. There is no greater commandment than these.”

Imagine that! We just heard it from Christ! The commandment is for today. Tomorrow has enough worries for itself, focus on today. The best way to be prepared for the Second Coming is to live the message of the First Coming. That is: Love!

When you love you take control of your life. You regain responsibility. Life is meant to be lived and filled with love.

Today we take control of our life by taking responsibility for our disease by understanding that something very simple is demanded of us. Tomorrow and the future, may or may not be there, but today is real. The only requirement necessary to live the day is to love and to love without restrictions.

Let us pray the 13th hour prayer of St. Nersess

Heavenly King, grant me Your kingdom, which You have promised to Your beloved; strengthen my heart to hate sin, and to love You alone, and to do Your will. Have mercy upon Your Creatures and upon me, a great sinner.

This is Fr. Vazken inviting you to join me again tomorrow as we continue on the Road to Healing.

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Road to Healing – Lenten Journey 2014
Day 34:

Walk through a cemetery and you’re sure to see a variety of headstones.

Different epitaphs describe the departed individual and/or a philosophy of life. On most headstones you’ll find the name of the deceased person followed by two dates – the year of birth and the year of death. Between the two dates is what I call the “time dash.” This is a small line that denotes the time between birth and death. The dash is usually the same size, whether it points to a life measured by months or one measured by decades.

Illness and disease remind us of our mortality, that is they remind us that the dash has to have some meaning. Conversely, when the dash is meaningful, illness and disease do not seem to matter.

Academy Award winner Sidney Poitier opens his spiritual autobiography with a scene that is all too

familiar. He writes:

It’s late at night as I lie in bed in the blue glow of the television set. I have the clicker in my hand, the remote control, and I go from 1 to 97, scrolling through the channels. I find nothing that warrants my attention, nothing that amuses me, so I scroll up again, channel by channel, from bottom to top. But already I’ve given it the honor of going from 1 to 97, and already I’ve found nothing. The vast, sophisticated technology and … nothing. It’s given me not one smidgeon of pleasure. It’s informed me of nothing beyond my own ignorance and my own frailties.

But then I have the audacity to go up again! And what do I find? Nothing, of course. So at last, filled with loathing and self-disgust, I punch the damn TV off and throw the clicker across the room, muttering to myself, “What am I doing with my time?”*

This is the question that becomes more pronounced when illness and disease hit us. Surely, the scenario in which Poitier finds himself is another type of disease.

When things are going well, we forgot that our time on this planet and in this life is limited. Time is the most precious of all commodities. We know this. We say it enough, with witty words like, “Life is too short…” But when it comes down to it, we take our time for granted.

As we move on our own spiritual journey and on the Road to healing, the question “What am I doing with my time?” is central to our wellbeing. There are many ways to answer this question. It could be descriptive of time-spent, such as, “I am scanning through 97 channels,” or it can be as profoundly simple as “I am living.”

Interestingly enough, you don’t have to give an accounting of this question to anyone but yourself. To who else does it matter? You know if you’re wasting, squandering, exploiting, enjoying or living the life you have. And no one else can place a value or make a judgment call on your use of time. Ultimately, you are responsible for the minutes, hours, days, weeks, months and years of your life. They will make up the content of the time-dash one day.

You are on the Road to Healing. You, if anyone, know the value of time. Part of the 40-day Lenten Journey is to find the strength and courage to implement the discoveries you’ve made during this time, throughout the rest of the year. That is, the 40 days of Lent are to strengthen the 325 other days in the year, and ultimately to make the life changes you need to be and live the healthy life you were intended to live.

Today’s prayer is an adaption that I have made to St. Nersess Shnorhali’s prayer of the 9th hour. It’s about being. Let us pray,
Lord, bless me with the holiness to open my eyes to the beauty in the world, my ears to hear the songs in the air, my mouth so that I may speak out for righteousness, my heart so that it may think of peace, my hands so that I may work for justice, my feet so that I may walk in the paths of healing, and direct me in your commandments. Have mercy on all your creation. Amen.

This is Fr. Vazken, looking forward to continuing the Road to Healing with you tomorrow.


* From “The Meaure of a Man: A spiritual autobiography” by Sidney Poitier, 2000, Harper San Francisco
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Risk Management

Road to Healing – Lenten Journey 2014
Day 33:
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Dan Kujurian liked flashy cars and I liked looking out for his cars. Now that I think of it, it was the flash that I liked. I was a kid; flash and glitter were exciting. Come to think of it, I only knew he had cool cars, but never saw him drive any of them. Dan was neither glittery nor exciting. He was actually a very dull guy, but he loved his cars… I guess.

Dan had a brand new Chevy Corvette Sting Ray. The year was 1963 and this car was flash, glitter and excitement. You looked at it and you knew it moved. I remember the first time I saw this car it looked like the car was cutting through space with its sharp front end. The lights would pop up from the hood, and as a 7 year old kid with a wonder for how things worked, my imponderable was whether the lights went off when they were folded under. (Yes, just another version of the refrigerator light imponderable.)

Dan had some business to discuss with my dad one day and came over our house. When the time came for him to leave, I got excited to go out to get a look – and maybe a drive – in his car. My dad and I walked him out the house. Where was his car? Not on our block.

He walked down the street and then turned the corner. My dad said good-bye to him there. I felt short-changed. “Aren’t we going to walk to his car with him? You know he has a Sting Ray!”

“He parked over in the LACC parking lot,” said my dad. He knew something that I was going to find out that night.

The LACC parking lot was three blocks away. It was night and the parking lot was sparsely populated with cars. As he walked away from us my dad told me the Dan Kujurian secret for keeping his car clean, pristine and unscratched: He parks far away and in remote areas.

That’s it. This little secret kept his car looking like new. Everywhere he would go, he’d park far and away, sometimes walking up to a mile to avoid having anyone get close to his vehicle. Now my dad had an aversion to gossip, but that day he told me that Dan had recently made his date walk and walk to the church social one night because he didn’t want to park the car close to others cars in the church parking lot.

I always remember the night that I discovered the Dan Kujurian secret. Whenever I’ve been scared to risk, I’ve thought about that beautiful Sting Ray. It was clean and without blemish, but it was never driven and never served its purpose. It never exploited its full potential. And Dan? Well, he walked everywhere? I don’t think he really enjoyed that car.

Life has purpose and meaning. Healing means we are re-aligned with the purpose and meaning of life. Living life means you have to engage in it at an intimate level. You can’t park far way. Yes, there is a risk that you’ll get scratched and hit, you may get hurt, but think of this: you’ll be sitting in the driver’s seat and the ride will be a fun one.

Tennyson’s words, “Tis better to have loved and lost, than never to have loved at all,” are the words of our meditation today. As you roll through this junction on the Road to Healing, think of opportunities that you’ve missed because you have been scared to risk the hurt. Think of the enjoyment you’ve passed up because you’ve parked too far away from life. And now think of the new opportunities in front of you – to heal, to be well, to understand, to stand, to play, to laugh. Courage is required to park close to the action, and with a bit of faith, the drive is fun, fulfilling and filled with joy.

Let’s park close by and tomorrow we can continue on the Road to Healing.

Produced by Suzie Shatarevyan for
Photo – 1963 Corvette
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Risking Anxiety

Road to Healing – Lenten Journey 2014
Day 32:
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In the healing process, anxiety complicates matter. Usually anxiety is looked upon as the by-product of our illness, that is, because of our illness or strained relationships, we are stressed and worried about the problem and ultimately the solution. Will I get better? Can we find reconciliation? Am I done with my habits or will they return? Will the disease return? Will it kill me?

Anxiety is quantifiable, that is, it can be measured. Arguably, certain levels of anxiety can even be beneficial for our own safety. For instance, walking through on the street at night, with heart-beat racing, our senses are alerted to dangers and we can exercise extra caution. Or, when we hear of someone else’s diagnosis we might project that same illness on ourselves. The anxiety is not healthy in a large dose, but in a small dose it might make us aware of our frailties causing us to change our habits, diets or lifestyle. Many diets and smoking cessation programs have been started because of the illness of a friend or loved one.

Anxiety in large levels is dangerous and here’s why: It prevents us from taking risks! What? Isn’t that a good thing? Why should we want to take risks in the first place?

As you stand on the edge of the building, on the sill, to see if jumping off will hurt or not, anxiety and stress kick in preventing you from risking your life. Getting on a plane to attend a business seminar or visit your Aunty Margaret is also risky, but it’s calculated in favor of reaching your destination without harm. So, while you may get anxiety-induced sweaty palms or jitters during the takeoff, you take the trip nonetheless. But if the anxiety level was so great that you walked away, or off the plane, that would be harmful to your general welfare.

Life is a calculated risk. Too many times I have witnessed people who are so scared of risking that they do not move forward. That fear – being scared – is a negative anxiety. I’m not discounting the power of anxiety; rather I’m challenging its influence in your life.

Life, by definition, is about living. Living means moving forward. When you move forward with your life you’re taking some calculated risks. You may fall down. You may trip. And, yes, you may actually make it to your destination!

Some of the greatest tragedies that I’ve seen in my life have involved people who are so scared that they refuse to take a risk for fear of failure. Yes, there is failure and there is success. They are two sides of the same coin. In the coin-toss of life, there is a chance that the coin will come up Failure, but think of this: Failure is much heavier than Success. Therefore, there’s a better chance that it will land DOWN on Failure and UP on Success!

There are medications that control anxiety, but we are already deep on the Road to Healing. We’ve been through some training over the course of the last few weeks and we’re ready to try out some of our learned experiences against anxiety. Prayer and meditation are important. Stay focused.

Let us meditate on Christ’s words, “Do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Let the day’s own trouble be sufficient for the day.”

What are the things you are most anxious about? Illness? Troubles? Relationships? Addictions? All of these? None of these? What can you do by worrying about them? Does your worrying prevent you from moving forward with your life?

Now ponder the worst-case scenario… What will happen if I take a step forward? What is the worst case scenario? Can I survive it?

You’ve survived thus far. Life has ups and downs and some of the downs are painful, but the ups are tremendously pleasant. Look forward and be prepared to continue on this journey tomorrow.

This is Fr. Vazken inviting you to join me tomorrow on the Road to Healing.

Produced by Suzie Shatarevyan for
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Road to Healing – Lenten Journey 2014
Day 31:
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Dr. K is a physician and an artist, that is, he approaches his medical practice as an art. He explained this distinction to a group of high school students he was mentoring.

When I first opened the Youth Ministries Center in Glendale, Dr. K approached me with an offer: If I brought him students, he would mentor them, help them as they selected their career paths as well as assist them if they applied to med school. I went with the first group of kids and listened in as Dr. K’s passion for medicine and healing was transferred to this group of student. He spoke as an artist practicing the medical arts, treating and caring for the entire body as well as the human condition.

My relationship with Dr. K continued for several years. I was intrigued by his approach to the healing arts. One day he invited me to join him on the rounds at a Free Clinic he had set up in Ventura County. Many migrant farm workers are attracted to California’s Central Coast. Dr. K attracted a few health care professionals and volunteers to tend to the needs of the needy at a make-shift clinic operating out of the social hall at a local church in Thousand Oaks, California. We drove there together giving me a chance to hear his understanding of the human condition, caring, compassion and healing. It is one thing to hear and another to experience. So that night he allowed me to tail him, as he went from patient to patient, checking blood pressure, temperature and doing what he does best: listening, caring and offering a path to healing.

From the unique vantage point I was offered, I witness an artist in action. But in particular I remember vividly this artist’s brush strokes – as he painted a picture of warmth and design in the life of Mrs. Martinez, the next patient we would visit. Mrs. Martinez was waiting for Dr. K and when we walked in you could tell she was relieved. Dr. K addressed her by name and in her gesture I could tell he was a familiar face to her. Dr. K asked her how she was doing and began rubbing her back as she responded. She spoke and told her story. He rubbed her back and put her at ease. It was a gentle rub, in a circular motion, offered as a therapeutic massage without the deep kneading action. She spoke and spoke. He rubbed and rubbed. The “exam” lasted 20 minutes. At the end, she thanked the doctor. He told her that everything would be fine.

As we left the room, it occurred to me that there was no specific medical trauma that was diagnosed and no medical service – pills, shots, therapy – that took place or offered. At least to this untrained eye, I couldn’t diagnosis the diagnosis. I asked Dr. K, “What was that all about? What was she in for?”

“She’s lonely. Her life is absent of touch.” He said this in a most gentle voice. “She comes in once a month. She talks. This 20 minutes is her human contact, the touch and the feel that she needs to feel good.”

We talked and shared even more that night about Mrs. Martinez as well as some of the other patients I observed. But the image of a lonely woman, warming up and coming to life because of a simple touch has never faded from my memory. Touching and feeling is essential and necessary to human life. We say, life is to be celebrated! How can we celebrate alone? Are we not called to interact, engage and touch one another – spiritually, emotionally and physically?

Today’s mediation is a simple one of reaching out and touching. Take an extra moment to feel the touches in your day today – the handshakes, the embraces, the kisses, as well as the emotional and spiritual touches. When a poem or prayer moves you to tears or goose bumps, what are those physical manifestation of our inner soul all about? How are they connected and how can they touch us to find complete healing?

I look forward to continuing on this journey with you again tomorrow.

(Note: From that original group of students I took to meet Dr. K, the first student graduated med school last year. She promises to be another artist of the healing arts.)

Produced by Suzie Shatarevyan for
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