Tag Archive for: In His Shoes

Advent 44-50: Empathy

Advent Day 44: Empathy

The scriptural reading for this particular day comes from the Letter to the Hebrews, chapter 13: Let brotherly love continue. Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some have unwittingly entertained angels. Remember the prisoners as if chained with them — those who are mistreated — since you yourselves are in the body also. Marriage is honorable among all, and the bed undefiled; but fornicators and adulterers God will judge. Let your conduct be without covetousness; be content with such things as you have. For He Himself has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” So we may boldly say: “The Lord is my helper; I will not fear. What can man do to me?”

We are only a few days from the end of the Advent season and welcoming Theophany. You find that the Church is directing us, with these words, toward a commitment to Faith that is based on empathy. “Unwittingly entertained angels,” is a reference to opening yourself to the plight of the stranger, the foreigner, the immigrant, the refugee in your midst. The “prisoner as if chained with them” is the call to outreach, but to be empathetic to the sufferings of the prisoner. In other words, the call is to do good to others by walking in their shoes, understanding their pain and suffering. Herein is the application of our faith, and certainly an important reminder as we enter the New Year.

To start off the New Year, here is a prayer from the start of the new day, from the Morning Hour of the Armenian Church: We give thanks to You, Lord our God, who with Your light brings joy to all of your creatures, and with the light of Your commandments You have enlightened all those who believe in You. Strengthen us Lord, during this day and at all times, so that with enlightened minds, we may always do that which is pleasing to You, and may arrive at those good things which are to come along with Your saints, with the grace and mercy of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, to Whom is befitting glory, dominion and honor, now and forever. Amen.  


Armodoxy for Today: Reciprocity

Jesus gives a specific instruction on how to pray. He says to make it concise, that God already knows our needs and therefore pray like this: Our Father, who is in heaven, may Your name be holy. May your kingdom come, and may your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us today our daily bread and forgive us the wrong we have done as we forgive those who have done us wrong. And keep us away from temptation and deliver us from evil. (Matthew 6:9-13)

Of all the requests that we make in that short prayer, Jesus emphasizes forgiveness by adding to the prayer, For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.

At one point, Peter asks him “How often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? Up to seven times?” and Jesus replies, “I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven. (Matthew 18:21-22)

And he shares a parable in which a wealthy man, in this case a king, who wants to settle his accounts. A servant of his owed him $10,000 and was unable to pay his debt. The king ordered a repayment plan that would put severe hardship on him, his wife and his children. The man, fell at the king’s feet and begged him to be patient and he would take care of the debt. The king was so filled with compassion that he forgave the servant his debt.

In turn, the man went out and found a fellow servant who owed him a much smaller amount, about $100, and demanded – even manhandled him – “Pay me what you owe!” The person fell to his knees and begged the man to be patient and promised to pay the debt soon. Instead of showing even a small bit of compassion, he ordered the person be thrown into prison until he should pay the debt.

When others saw what had happened, they reported this the king. The king called him and said, “You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you begged me. Should you not also have had compassion on your fellow servant, just as I had pity on you?” In his anger, the king had the servant delivered to torturers until he should pay all that was due.

Jesus summarizes the parable by saying, “So My heavenly Father also will do to you if each of you, from his heart, does not forgive his brother his trespasses.” (Matthew 18:23-35)

Forgiveness is the cornerstone of Armodoxy. Understanding, compassion and love are all built upon the foundation of forgiveness. It is so essential to the understanding of Christianity that Jesus reiterates it at the end of the “Our Father” prayer and shares this parable asking us to put our feet in the shoes of others. Don’t let the use of personalities, such as kings and servants, file this story under irrelevant, understand that we all fall into the trap of the servant. God has forgiven us our trespasses. He has forgiven the greatest debt we hold. We start with a clean slate at baptism and each opportunity to commune with Christ. Accordingly, we don’t have the right not to forgive others.

As the world comes to terms with the wars and abandoned diplomacy, we build a life of prayer which begins with forgiveness, both ours and those of others who have hurt us.

Let us pray, Lord our God, we ask that you heal the wounds and the ills of this world. You stepped out of the comfort of Heaven to place your feet in the shoes of humanity. You forgave without reservation. In that spirit, help me to understand the pain and struggle of my fellow human being, to forgive those who have hurt me. Keep your example ever before my eyes. Amen.

Cover photo: 4/24/2005

Natural Solutions with Supernatural Consequences

Super Solutions that are Natural

Next Step #780 – August 18, 2023 – Looking for solutions to the supersized crises from the blockade in Artsakh to the wildfire in Hawaii, Fr. Vazken points to natural solutions with supernatural consequences. Empathy comes alive, lip-service ends, children learn, and so do we. Begging others –  America, Russia or France – ends. Weapon and resources we’ve always had and echoed by Khirimian Hayrig himself. A call to donated to Hawaiian Wildfire Relief. Effective protest- to the point and ones which get answers – tried and proven. Religious prejudice and Carlos Santana’s Supernatural. Jesus’ natural supernatural abilities.

Links from today’s podcast:
Blockade in Artsakh
Open Wounds and you’d never know
Los Angeles Freeways Blocked
Carlos Santana gets away with Supernatural talk
Hawaiian Wildfire Tragedy
In His Shoes – Hawaiian Wildfire Relief
Israel Kamakawiwo’ole
Cover Photo – Finger & statue at Cascade 2014
Produced by Suzie Shatarevyan for http://Epostle.net
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Children Lost

Roots of Armodoxy: Children Lost

Yerablur is place where you sober up quickly. Sometimes the beauty and charm of Armenia and all of its wonders are very exciting and mesmerize the senses. It becomes easy to forget that there was and there still is a cost to this beauty.

Graves on a small hill in Yerevan, called Yerablur, with an abundance of flags, incense and flowers, dazed family members, and “brave soldiers that cannot get older” make it clear that freedom has a cost, that is, freedom is not free. These graves are of the soldiers that paid the price.

Most of these graves are from the 44 day war in 2020, when the Azeris attacked the Armenians and young men, many in their teens, we called to defend the homeland. The grave markers, or tombstones, stare at you with pictures of these children.

As we stood there on this hill, I reflected on our purpose for being here: Peace.

As the Armenian Church we offer something that no one else can, namely the peace through an effort of love and compassion. Walking “in the shoes” of others is a form of compassion. In Armenian, the “In His Shoes” formula is summed up, “Tzav’t Tanem” – let me feel your pain.  To feel the pain of others is the beginning of compassion, and the next step is to help alleviate the pain. The way of the world is to send weapons of war – guns, bombs – the way that we have discovered in the ancient form of Armenian Christianity is not by passing along guns – weapons of violence – but by offering the tools to overcome the guns.

A little chapel sits at Yerablur, where we offered a prayer for the souls of all those who’ve fallen for this sacred land, but not before reciting the song by Stephen Stills, which serves as our prayer,

Daylight again, following me to bed

I think about a hundred years ago

How my father’s bled

I think I see a valley covered with bones in blue

All the brave soldiers that cannot get older

Been asking after you

Hear the past a’ calling from Armageddon’s side

When everyone’s talking and no one is listening

How can we decide

Do we find the cost of freedom buried in the ground?

Mother Earth will swallow you

Lay your body down

Post-Genocide: A Global Calling

Post-Genocide: A Global Calling

Next Step #773 – April 27, 2023 – Post Genocide Remembrance edition. 108 years removed from the Genocide, what are the take-aways of remembrance and commemoration? The Armenianness of Genocide and the Global calling: Can we take a serious look at our approach to remembrance and exploit the message? Some after thoughts on the commemoration. Critical Mass needed, and set backs.
Open Wounds, Really?
Free Speech? Really?
World Vision “Famine” – 20 years later
Let there be Peace by Vince Gill
Cover: “Two Dimensional Mourning” 2023 Fr. Vazken
Produced by Suzie Shatarevyan for http://Epostle.net
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20 years ago: One of us

It was 20 years ago today: Untold stories of the Armenian Church Youth Ministries Center

Today’s Episode: One of us

Finding yourself and seeing yourself in the Gospel message is part of Christian introspection. There is a much different relationship you have with what is known as the Old Testament. Those are historic stories and therefore stuck in time. In the Gospels, you are invited to see yourself in Christ’s parables, such as the Good Samaritan or the Prodigal Son. Not so with Old Testament stories. For instance, it is a mistake to console yourself by comparing your sufferings with Jobs, rather, understand his story as maintaining faith despite difficulties.

The words of Christ are timeless, that is, they transcend time, whether in a parable or in his messages. In the Beatitudes (Matthew 5) Jesus’ says,  “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be filled. Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God. Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” These words are the same yesterday, today and tomorrow. They are spoken from God.

Our “In His Shoes” mission was adopted early at the Armenian Church Youth Ministries was taking off and becoming popular among the students. In Genocide commemoration, held on April 24, In His Shoes was a sensible alternative to yelling and protesting in front of empty buildings, plus it provided positive exposure to the plight of the Armenians. And the best part of it was that it was in step with the Gospel message of love, light and goodness. We were walking in the shoes of others.

We were looking for opportunities to demonstrate how love can be a new means of expression for Genocide awareness. That first year, April 24 was marked with a blood drive in the basement of our building. The American Red Cross came out and we lined up donors. The message we proclaimed was simple, “In 1915 we gave blood against our will, today willing we give blood for the sake of saving lives.” The students were quick to get on board. Though some could not donate because of their age, they brought in relatives to fill our quotas.

This was something new in the community. We had done the April 24 blood drives in Cupertino and Pasadena, but the number of Armenians in Glendale, especially around the Center, prompted discussions and questions.

Q: Who will get this blood?

A: It will go into the community blood bank collected by the Red Cross to be used by those who need it.

Q: You mean non-Armenians might receive this blood?

A: Yes! In fact, it is possible that a Turk might need blood and your blood will go to him or her!

Now, we are truly talking about walking in the shoes of others. Now “love your enemies” starts making sense – helping someone because they are a child of God. And, on a personal level, what better payback can there be than to have a Turk walking around with Armenian blood?! We collected blood and reached out with other programs as well.

At the time, recording artist Joane Osborne’s song, “One of us” was getting a lot of airtime. We adopted the song for the Youth Ministries. It helped us articulate what we discovered and were trying to practice with the students: to recognize God as “The least of His brothers and sisters.” (Matthew 25)

We would sing this song during those early years as a mantra for us, our relationship with others and our expression of faith. “If God had a name, what would it be? And would you call it to His face? If you were faced with Him in all His glory? What would you ask if you had just one question?

And yeah, God is great, yeah, God is good.

What if God was one of us? Just a slob like one of us?  Just a stranger on the bus trying to make his way home?

With this song, we were celebrating accessibility. Jesus’ teaching was revolutionary because through him God was accessible to us all. He invited us to engage with God. And we were witnessing the miracle at the Center – here were young kids, coming to an Armenian Church and understanding themselves as participants is God’s Kingdom. It was a time of celebration, in this forgotten area of Glendale, kids were waking up to God’s glory by seeing it in the love they expressed to others.

We continue tomorrow with more untold stories from 20 years ago today, and invite you to join us. If you missed earlier episodes, you can hear them on your favorite podcatcher or at Epostle.net under the “Armodoxy for Today” tab. Remember to leave a comment and/or write us at feedback@epostle.net.

Cover: Old man smoking in Thailand, Envato Elements

20 years ago: In His Shoes Formation

It was 20 years ago today: Untold stories of the Youth Ministries Center

Today’s Episode: In His Shoes

Thankfully April 24 only comes around once a year. It’s a super-charged day of Armenianness. It is the anniversary of the Armenian Genocide which began with a round-up of intellectuals and leaders of the community on April 24, 1915. It was the beginning of a systematic program of annihilation of the Armenian population living in the Ottoman Empire. By the time it was over, 1.5 million Armenians were murdered – men, women, and children – and about the same number were exiled from their historic homeland creating the Diaspora, with Armenians in all corners of the world and in every country.

The Genocide is a very personal story with me because all four of my grandparents were Genocide survivors. All four of my wife’s grandparents were Genocide survivors. We grew up with the stories of atrocities that were so horrendous that they often told with silence and tears.

As far as I can remember, on every April 24 we would attend a commemoration activity of the Armenian Martyrs. In 1965, on the 50th anniversary of the Genocide, a small group of men got together with the vision of creating a monument to honor the Martyrs. My father was one of those men. As a little boy I remember him going to meetings, the events, fundraisers, and finally the opening of the monument, the first one on public property in Montebello, California. It was a small but meaningful way in which we honored the memory of those who perished. A few years ago they placed a plaque on the monument with the name of the committee members. Seeing my father’s name there swelled pride in me, and reminded me of commemorations from years past and what they have deteriorated to today.

Fifty, Sixty, Seventy, and even eighty years after the Genocide we would have survivors at these events who would share their eye-witness account of the mayhem their experienced in their homes, during the most tender years of their lives. Today, these events are filled with a demand for justice (from Turkey) and rhetoric that often is forgotten on April 25. I’ve always maintained that the easiest day to be Armenian is April 24, and the hardest day is April 25 and the 364 that follow.

At the Youth Ministry Center, kids were coming in because of the sign out front. They knew it was a place where both their Armenian ethnic identity and their Christian faith would be nurtured and grow. I wanted the reality of the Easter experience – Christ has risen – to resonate in their experience as Armenians whose ancestors, now three or four generations ago, had experienced Genocide.

We organized an overnight retreat in Santa Clarita, California. I asked my friends Linda Maxwell and Jose Quintanar to help me facilitate the discussions. As always, they lovingly obliged.

This group of 20 young people, ages 14-18, contemplated the meaning of being the grandchildren (the term was use generically to denote either great or great-great grandchild) of Genocide survivors in the middle of America today with all the amenities and comforts they enjoy.

There was really only one choice at the time if you didn’t want to stay home on April 24, you would attend a march, usually kicked off with a group of clergy reciting a prayer, then they’d pass out banners and posters “demanding” justice for crimes committed against your ancestors and you’d march through the streets of Hollywood to the Turkish Embassy. Once, there, you’d participate in a rally with loud speeches demanding justice from the Turks. No one was sure if the there was anyone listening or if anyone was even in the Embassy building. On top of it all, the math didn’t figure either. The number of Armenians in the entire world was less than the number of people on Los Angeles freeways on any given day of the week. In other words, we lacked critical mass.

The students of the Youth Ministry deliberated and discussed. They prayed and discussed some more. At the end a reading from Scripture opened their minds and their path. From Matthew 25, Jesus says, “For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me…. When you did it to the least of my brothers and sisters, you did it for me.”

They came up with a very simple and clear definition of Armenian-Christian identity for children of the new millennium: To be an Armenian means you learn and grow from your history, and feel the pain of others who suffer the same fate. Remembering the past makes sense in defining your present. And so, this small group of young Armenian-Americans, distanced from the Genocide by almost a century, came up with a simple formula: Walk in the shoes of others. Because we have suffered, we have an obligation to help others who suffer. Our Christian imperative to love and help others is accented by our Armenian history.

And so the In His Shoes mission was born of the Youth Ministries Center. Through the years, they have organized rallies for justice in Darfur, collected funds – $500,000+ to aid the hungry in Africa, delivered a forgiveness conference in greater Los Angeles, and met with Gov. Schwarzenegger and were part of an effort that divested California and the UC Regents from the Sudan to the tune of $6Billion, just to name the larger products.

Now, if you’re thinking miracles only happen with thunder bolts and lightning, consider how much greater the flash is with this. Consider these are the grand children of a generation that they tried to annihilate, these were people that were not supposed to be here, but they’re here, living, thriving and providing for others. Christ has risen! And so have we!

We continue tomorrow with more untold stories from 20 years ago today, and invite you to join us. If you missed earlier episodes, you can hear them on your favorite podcatcher or at Epostle.net under the “Armodoxy for Today” tab. Remember to leave a comment and/or write us at feedback@epostle.net.

Cover: First logo of In His Shoes, created by Varoujan Movsesian, 2003

Wella Moments

Next Step #754 – November 17, 2022 – Pre-thanksgiving messages to the questions of robots with souls and worshipping with AI creatures. Not too far off considering Disney gave a soul and personality to a rodent named Mickey.  Carl Perkins helping Paul McCartney grieve John Lennon. Pope Francis and the World Day of the Poor: a challenge from the pages of In His Shoes. Baptism as a candle of hope.
Cover: “Over the clouds”
Produced by Suzie Shatarevyan for Epostle.net
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Armodoxy for Today

On the last evening of a visit to Armenia, I sat staring out the window of my room at sunset. The room was high enough to give me a panoramic view of Yerevan, under the majestic shadow of Mt. Ararat. During my trip, I had met with people doing work on the cutting edge of technology. I spent time with people who were challenging the norms and excelling for the betterment of themselves, their families and their country. There was real hope in the air.

I remember looking out the window and praying for peace. It was simple wish: If this small but potent country could only have peace, miracles could happen. The miracles we would see would not be from any outside source, rather, they would come from within, if only there was peace. It was possible, it had been nearly 30 years that this country, which had known centuries of oppression, massacres and even genocide, was now living in peace. I looked out at the Yerevan skyscape and knew we would see the best of miracles, if only there was peace.

It is now 2022. A friend called me from Armenia this morning. At the end of our conversation he said, “If only we have peace, we can do anything, we can aspire to the best and be the best. If only we have peace.” It was as if my prayer from a few years ago was recorded and being played back to me in the voice of my friend. His prayer was more current, though, and had a more urgent tone to it. After all, the 44 day war in 2020 had taken place and the war in September of this year, initiated by the Azeris, has left everyone on edge, to say the least.

It is difficult to understand the pain and suffering of others from a distance. One of the core tenants of Armodoxy is a call to walk in the shoes of others. It is the expression of empathy, that is, to fully understand the pain and suffering of others, we must walk in their shoes. And small exercises can help us place our feet in the correct place.

Those of us living in the United States might not fully understand the prayer for peace in Armenia, but we might begin by imagining a world where we were constantly being attacked by our neighbors in Mexico and Canada, to the point that we live with the uncertainty of maintaining our independence, day-in and day-out. Perhaps the example is not fair considering the size, power and geography of the US. Those of you in Europe, in Africa, or in the Middle East, where countries are so much closer and intertwined with one another, can consider a country such as Switzerland, if its landlocking neighbors, France, Italy, Austria and Germany had only one intention, to annihilate and destroy that relatively small country.

And if still difficult to imagine, sit in your own home, in your house or apartment and picture all of your neighbors – every one of them, next door and across the street – wanting only one thing: to overpower, overcome and rid you from the neighborhood.

Walking in the shoes of others is a call to empathy. It is understanding that the only real and true miracle that we must pray and work for is peace. Walking in the shoes of others gives us the capacity to understand and once in the shoes, we must walk towards resolution.

Appropriately, today we pray the prayer of St. Francis of Assisi, Lord, make me an instrument of your peace. Where there is hatred, let me sow love; where there is injury, pardon; where there is doubt, faith; where there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light; and where there is sadness, joy. O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console; to be understood as to understand; to be loved as to love. For it is in giving that we receive; it is in pardoning that we are pardoned; and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life. Amen.


Next Step #733: Beginning the 15th season of the Next Step, Fr. Vazken shares some of the most precious blessings of the ministry, spanning the last five decades. From Genocide experiences, to the primer offered by St. Nersess Shnorhali, unlock the beauty of the “blessings” in this up-close and personal edition of the Next Step, presenting the new Epostle.net ministry.
Sirach 43
Einstein on Religiousness
The End is just the challenge (NS69)
Highlights of Fr. Vazken’s Ministry
Paul McCartney’s “Junk”
Cover: Epostle.net, 2022, Anush Movsesian Avejic
Produced by Suzie Shatarevyan for InHisShoes.org and Epostle.net
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