Archive for December 2009

CHRISTmas Message – 2009

December 19, 2009

HOPE, Peace, Joy, Love

                                           By: Takouhi Demirdjian-Petro

 As Christmas approaches

People begin to run

Seeking to find the gift

That will last forever.

 

In the chaos of the night

Looking for HOPE they wander

Into baskets of sales they sink and slumber.

Seeking bargains they kneel and pray

Allowing True Hope to dissipate away.

 

The search continues,

This time it is Peace.

This Peace which is found within is sought without.

Forgetting to reconnect with the Prince of Peace at hand

Self glory of the nations

Becomes the reason to proclaim the Season.

 

Peace is not heard nor touched

Deafening music plays on

Thinking Joy will come

“It has to work this time”.

Yet, Joy is not found in bells or chimes

Nor in the carols that are sang for many years thus far.

 

What is left then but to Love.

Love that will satisfy even for one night.

Pleasures fulfilled

People disappear

The one left alone is loved by the ONE unseen.

 

People search in vain rushing through the days

But the message is clear  – Slow down and Breathe…

 

The breath of life in you is God’s Love everlasting

The gifts you share with others is God’s Joy within

The words of Love you speak is God’s Peace on Earth

The Life you Hope for is wrapped in the manger abiding.

 

May the First Christmas Story be the center of your Heart

 and

May the New Year ahead be established on

True Hope, Peace, Joy and Love which Surpass all human understanding.

2009 – All Rights Reserved Jabez Enterprises

 

Journal #9

December 14, 2009

                November 18, 2009: What a glorious day to be driving home on my 42nd birthday. Even though I have not stopped for the last 7 days, I woke up before my alarm clock. Gary always tells me I do not need an alarm clock, because I always get up before it rings. Last night was the Kingston Presbytery meeting which took place at Elgin United. This is one of the churches that I am serving and I could not have asked for a better Birthday kick off then this.

                At about 2:30 p.m. on the 17th, we watched a great DVD entitled, the Front Runners. It was a documentary on residential schools, specifically in Winnipeg, Manitoba. It was narrated by one of the survivors himself. It cannot get any more real than that. We discussed how we felt watching this DVD and how can we apply what we saw to our lives in the present time. The group of attendees was not a large one, we were about 10, but the response that we all had was powerful. We echoed almost unanimously on the point of how money, power and control are misused for personal gain. It is also unfortunate how these personal desires also become a communal hunger. Often it is also done in the name of Christ just like it has been done throughout history of the Church. The ghosts of the past are still reality today. This is not just a reality within the First Nations, but also to all of humanity. At the end of the discussion, we all agreed to ponder upon how we can make a difference, as an individual, as a congregant, as the United Church of Canada and as a global church of Christ.

                At about 5:30, we had a great supper prepared for us. I also experienced the sale of the most expensive shepherd’s pies ever. The money of the sale was going to the expenses of the sound system at the church, which is so important. There were two trays left and each one was sold for $65.00 and the other for $60.00. Our chef was also the amazing auctioneer – I never knew how talented he is.

                After supper, we started the Presbytery meeting with worship, where the chair of the council welcomed everyone, shared information about the church with the outreach programs, and also introduced me as the intern minister, after which, I sang my two all time favourite songs in Armenian, “How Great Thou Art” and “It is well with My Soul”. These will always be at the top of my favourite hymns list I suppose, as they truly remind me that all through life I have experienced how great God is therefore, I can echo and confidently say, “Whatever comes my way, it is also well with my soul “.

                For a change, the meeting actually finished on time, even though we were running a little late on a few points of the agenda. I arrived home and finalized packing and for some reason, my left knee was hurting. I guess, I twisted it somehow and did not really feel it with all the excitement and the busy agenda. I think, I twisted my leg when I passed by a microphone, instead of lifting the microphone with the stand and removing it, I tried to squeeze by and twisted my knee. Sometimes I do not get myself, I do not want to disturb anyone or anything, not even a speck of dust. This pain became more apparent to me in the morning. Tears were beginning to come down. But I did not tell a soul and started to head out to Montreal early in the morning.

                It was still dark at about 6:45 a.m. on November 18, when I loaded the car and headed to Montreal. As I started approaching Athens, the daybreak started to be obvious and the red fiery sunrise started to be prominent. By the time I arrived in Brockville, it was full daylight. The fog which was beginning to dissipate on the way from Portland was still covering Hwy. 401. So, I ran into patches of fog that made the drive difficult at some points. It was still a beautiful scene to be part of. The fog was lifting up like a blanket unveiling the beauty of God’s Love. The journey seemed longer than usual, either I was anxious to get home and see Gary, Maya, Mom, Dad and my sister, or it was the left knee reminding me of the twist and the pain was becoming excruciating.

                I made it to Laval, went and picked up Gary, after saying hello to Maya, Mom and Dad and went to meet a friend for breakfast. Gary and I drove to the restaurant and she was already there. I was walking slowly, but I was walking. I was determined not to allow this pain to cancel my breakfast date. (If you ever want to get me out of bed on time, promise me breakfast and I will get up). For some reason breakfast is my favourite meal of the day. Often I wonder why, but I still do not have an answer.

                I was planning to go down to UTC, as Wednesdays’ are the noon time worship service, and be with my sisters and brothers in Christ, but I had to listen to my body, stay home and rest. After being spoiled rotten by my friend with breakfast treats and beautiful gifts, I came home, read, lied down and took it easy for the rest of the day.

                In the evening, my sister arrived and joined us for supper that Mom and Dad so graciously ordered for all of us and surprised me with a heart shaped, strawberry shortcake. What a treat! They had actually ordered it from the baker who had made our wedding cake. They truly know how to spoil their “daughter”. What a blessing to have them with us.

                I remember when they were moving in with us in 2005, many people warned me not to bring my in-laws in our home. I am glad that God’s Spirit pushed into our hearts and had Mom & Dad join us. Their presence has been nothing but a blessing. I think, this is what Jesus’ life demonstrated to us. To do the opposite of what the world tells us (do not get me wrong, I do not mean to go against regulations). To do what is filled with compassion and grace. To tip the scales of justice and bring forth, Reliability, Sacrifice, Compassion, Justice and Joy. We often forget to get out of our comfort zone to make room for others. I am glad that Gary and I were attentive to God’s Spirit and insisted Mom & Dad to join us.

                What more can I say about a wonderful birthday, except that God’s grace is sufficient for me once again. Here is a quotation from a poem that I had written in 2007, on my fortieth birthday and these words still echo in my heart and the joy of serving God only gets stronger:

                “… And now Oh God, I celebrate your Grace with gratitude

Not just for the forty years that you have demonstrated your steadfast love to me

but for Your Amazing Grace that promises to sustain me indefinitely –

I celebrate YOUR Grace oh God.” Amen.

Through Valleys and Mountains

December 11, 2009

Many people were interested to hear about my journey to Canada. Below is a short autobiographical sketch, which I recently shared in the pastoral charge’s newsetter for the glory of God.

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I was born in Beirut, Lebanon, the sixth and youngest child of the family. As a youngster, I was very active in different aspects of the church. At the age of eleven, I developed a desire to do “Good News Club” at our one bedroom apartment. One day, summer of 1978, while my mother was taking an afternoon nap, I went out on the balcony and told all the kids on the street to come up to our place because I had a story to tell them about Jesus. Ten showed up. This continued on once a week until school started in October. In the summer of 1979, an Armenian missionary was in town from Argentina. His stories moved me so much that after hearing the stories and the miracles that God had done, I told my mom that I wanted to become a missionary. She mentioned this to the missionary. The missionary, invited me for an interview. I went a couple of days later. I can barely remember any details of the conversations, however, this missionary took my desire seriously and valued me. Because of the civil war, my parents wanted to send me to the U.S. to continue “living” under the supervision of my eldest sister, however, after being refused many times by the U.S. Embassy, this seemed hopeless. One day in summer of 1983 my mom insisted that I go to the U.S. Embassy right away to get a visa. Although dreading the idea, as I had been refused at least 7 times, I obeyed mom and went. The Spirit who pushed my mom to send me to the embassy that day was truthful. I attained a visa. The Beirut airport was closed and other ways to get out of Lebanon were dangerous. By prayer and courage, my mother decided to take me to Damascus to get me on a plane to L.A. She would go with me and after my departure she would return home. I arrived in California, in September of 1983. I attended and graduated Armenian Mesrobian High School in L.A.; afterwhich in August 22, 1986 I entered Canada under the special project for Lebanese citizens. I went through life wanting to explore and become accepted by others. I tried to attend University, but for the wrong reasons – to impress others. I ignored God’s love as I looked for approval from individuals. In August of 1994, I lost my mom, and this made me more angry and confused towards God. However, being present when my mother breathed her last breath was the only proof that God exists. In 1997, I quit school and said, “I will never go back”. In July 1998, I received a second chance to life. Prayers were answered and I was delivered from death into life once again. After a long “cleansing” process, I met my husband through the internet on December 28, 1998. We got married Sept. 3, 2000. We began to attend Northlea United in Laval where we had gotten married. In the Season of Lent 2002, I was asked to share my faith with the congregation while the minister would be away in May. I agreed. A week after the service that I did, by God’s grace, I received a phone call from the neighboring Anglican minister asking me to do two services, while he is away. Everyone around me started to encourage me to go into ministry and the battle in my heart became stronger by the hour. Regrettably, I wanted to excel in my personal business and chase titles and prestige. In 2004, God opened up the door of the Armenian Evangelical Church for me to volunteer and serve the Youth Group. Thus, with my husband’s support and encouragement, I went forward. As the days passed and the youth members asked questions, God’s convicting power started to soften my heart and awaken the desire to serve God full-time. Therefore, I started to break out of my comfort zone and began knocking on doors to see how and where to start this journey. The Armenian Church openly stated that they do not encourage women to become ministers. It will, therefore, be a waste of time to stay at their congregation. Not being deterred from my objective, I approached Northlea United and asked if they would support me on this journey. The response was, “Of Course, with open arms”. This is where my journey has brought me today. Masters of Divinity, Year III, at United Theological College in Montreal. Of course, hardships and fears are always there; however, the gracious God who has brought me thus far, has promised to journey with me all the way. Looking back, it seems unbelievable; the bombs that did not explode when they fell right next to me, the trip from Lebanon to Syria that was certainly a journey through the valley of death, the experience of hardships through the “desert” to the Promised Land (Canada). The miracle of rebirth in 1998 and finding of a great partner such as Gary, my Spirit echoes, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9; NIV) – Thanks be to God.

Journal #8

December 1, 2009

                November 7, 2009: What a great day to drive to Marmora for a one day event, “ALL ARE WELCOME”.  It was a two hour drive from Portland, but worth every second of it. I am glad we did not take Highway 401 and went through the back roads (Hwy. 7). The experience of driving on “new” mountainous roads is always intimidating at first, but it is worth it at the end. Isn’t it always like that in everything we do? I do not know about you, but before I take a step to do something for the first time, I am anxious, because of the unknown. Most of the time, however, at the end, we realize how valuable it was to get out of our comfort zone and do the task ahead of us. 

                Early in the morning (6:55 a.m.), Gary and I left the apartment and drove through the winding roads of Westport, Sharbot Lake and other beautiful places. Passing through gorgeous hills and valleys; bodies of water; such as, Fall River, Silver Lake, Salmon River and many others. The dawning of the day was incredibly serene and peaceful. On one of the curves of CR – 36, we actually saw a beautiful deer behind barren trees standing on green, luscious grass that had invited this creature to come and eat from this banquet table which God had prepared. I reversed the car. Yes, for those of you who have not had the privilege to experience my driving, I do back up a lot if there is something amazing to see, given there are no cars behind me of course. I wanted to make sure Gary would also see this gracious animal. Yes, we stopped for a few minutes and admired this beautiful being. The deer was also looking at us and wondering why we were staring, like kids in front of a candy store. God has truly created everything beautifully and has harmoniously put together unimaginable beauty. I started to “tell” the deer to run and hide, as it is deer hunting season here.   

                Yes, it is deer hunting season around here, and this disturbs me a bit, but I am told that this helps control the animal population, etc. Are these excuses justifications to our (human) actions, or is it really necessary? The more I see or hear how we human beings treat each other, the animal kingdom and the environment, the more I am convinced that hunger for power and glory is nothing but poison and destruction. I remember my father telling me when I was just a little girl: “My daughter, the most voracious animal is the human being”. I am able to understand this phrase a little bit better now that I am older. I think my Dad’s words were not only regarding physical actions taken, but also referring to the attitudes of “know it all”. We have created barriers to segregate and separate; to isolate and detach. All who do not fit the mould of what is expected are cut off and forgotten.  

                Nature is beautiful and perfectly put together, but we do not take time to take care of it. We are too involved in satisfying our selfish desires, digging deeper for gold, oil, and money making schemes. We are too busy stealing from one another that we do not realize that we are actually stealing from ourselves. The greed of humanity and hunger for more power has brought the world into predicaments on different levels, which we are facing at this present time.  From family feuds to world conflicts. From disrespecting adults to neglecting youths. From selfish desires to empty promises. How many more warnings do we need to stop and take care of ALL?

                The sun was beginning to be more prominent and the shadows of the night were beginning to dissipate. The fresh dew on the grass, the trees and the rocks was like a humble servant waiting to be taken away to another place, to serve once again the next morning. Quenching the thirst of the earth and all that lives in it. New drops of grace, waiting to fall upon all living the next morning. The reflection of the beautiful white clouds are visible now on the lakes. This makes my heart sing praise to the Creator who has given us such gifts. The huge Spruce trees all lined up on the side of the highway, as if praising God and yet waiting in patience to be adorned by snow. No, snow has not arrived yet, but once in a while you feel the knocking at the door. But who can believe, the weather today is expected to go to 19 degrees (Celsius).

                The little towns we passed through were just amazing. Of course some are so tiny that if you’d blink, you’d miss them. But there are communities in these places who keep these towns vibrant and alive. No one is aware of what life is in these towns unless they would go and break bread with the people and get to know them. Isn’t that always the case? We can judge people from the outside, but things are different when you get involved and get to know the other. This reminds me of the pastoral charge that I am involved with right now. They have truly surprised me on how busy they are in their ministries and involved to reach out to the community. When I thought of Rural Churches, at the time of my internship application, I thought all will be quiet and I would get bored – I was wrong.  

                We arrived at St. Andrew’s United Church in Marmora. The morning worship was great and the rest of the day was amazing too. I learnt a few things which I think are important to all Christians. The major lesson, which came out of this day for me is: If we are Christians and following Christ’s ministry here and now why do we still have the words “us” and “them” in our vocabulary? We are all the same. We need to listen to every one’s story and embark together on this journey to help, embrace and Love.    

                There is no “us” and “them” when we talk about individuals and the differences we each bring. Jesus never judged anyone. He never talked about sexual orientation. Jesus’ only preoccupation was the person’s heart. Jesus’ message to all was and still is: Love God with all your heart, mind and strength and love your neighbour as yourself. Who is my neighbour? My neighbour is every single human being on earth. My sister, my brother, my parents, my friends, my next door neighbour, my classmate, etc… Jesus lived a life that was “transparent” to allow God’s love to shine through him; therefore, I need to be transparent so that God can be seen in my life – ALIVE.  

                To be Christian means to be a follower of Christ Jesus, who loved all immensely, lifted the lowly incalculably and gave it all unendingly. Following in his footsteps requires peeling away the self and putting on LOVE. Try to put your own wants and desires for more power and glory on the side for one day, and see the transformation we can bring forth for the entire world, one person at a time. Attempt to bring heaven to earth – Begin now.