Six Encouragements for the New Year

January 3, 2015 § 2 Comments

Baltimore “Soon there would be more wonderful things happening.”
C.S. Lewis, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe

Don’t Take Yourself Too Seriously – Trust me, you’ll enjoy yourself more, and more importantly, others will too! We can get so wrapped around ourselves that we fail to thrive and flourish as we were intended. I tell people that every swimming pool has a deep end and a shallow end, and you can’t enjoy the pool unless you use both. People who are always heavy and severe are difficult to take in large doses. Don’t be one of them, and the world will be better for that.

Don’t be consumed by Little Things – Unless your aim is to drive yourself crazy in 2015 (and everyone else for that matter!), don’t let politics and other such smallnesses (my word!) rule your life. Settle in your heart what you already know to be true: Christ is on the throne. He doesn’t share His rule with anyone. Can you trust Him with the universe? It’s not that he’s waiting on your vote of confidence, but if you can, life will be far more enjoyable for you and the people around you.

Live Generously – Okay, I know this must sound suspect coming from a pastor, but my observation is that the happiest people are the most generous – with their time, their money, their resources and their love. Taking, consuming and amassing are not what we were designed for, and stingy people always seem to be complaining about not having enough. But when we live generously, we are free, and we connect with our Creator, who designed us after His own image, and deep within we know this.

Serve More than You are Served – If you serve more than you are served, you will avoid living as though everyone owes you – because they don’t. Trust me, at times it will be inconvenient and thankless, but servanthood is like underground Disney for God’s people – it is where things really happen. Those who open their hearts and homes to others reflect what the Father has done for us. Servants change the world. Jesus proved this in His teachings and by His own example, and He isn’t doing too badly, is He.

Hold Those You Love Close – One of those beautiful countercultural commands Jesus gives to the Church is to love our enemies and to pray for them (Matthew 5:43-47). The Corleones got it wrong. Hold those you love closest, friends. Love them well. Throw pride aside! Practice forgiveness and be willing to own up when you’re wrong (and even a few times when you’re not wrong!). We only have a few moments on this planet, and this means that any relationship worth having is worth holding dear, and will bring immeasurable joy for the journey.

Embrace the Journey!John Calvin taught that knowing God and knowing ourselves go hand in hand, so this is also an encouragement to engage with Christ. Enjoy who God created you to be, and don’t apologize for it. Make decisions and live with them. Own up to mistakes, but don’t wallow in self-pity. Be who you are, but don’t let that be the end of the journey. As you engage with Jesus, the Father will reveal what you need to deal with and change, and God’s Spirit will enable this to come about, but in the mean time, live where you are!

Friends, it’s all there before you. what good news…

Happy New Year.

peace.

Horizon

My Mom

December 28, 2013 § 20 Comments

DSC00375 “All I ever wanted was to have a wonderful husband and children and take care of them. I had all that and God saved my soul, so I have Heaven thrown in, as well! Remember, I will be in Heaven praising the Lord. What a wonderful life I have had!”Mom, June 1, 2012

This past Thursday, the day after Christmas, my Mom, Marie Khandjian, passed away. I am speaking in the most personal of terms – the ‘she’s-my-mom’ kind of terms. Until your parents are gone you always feel the same, like the child one has been, throughout their entire lives to that point. Even as an adult, when you visit the house you grew up in, nothing feels different. There is your room, your den, your kitchen, etc. It’s all there as it had always been. But then, when they go, it is different. And now it is different. My Mom is gone. On her behalf we are relieved that she is Home and reunited to Dad, but it is different.

My Mom was an amazing woman. She loved life. She loved her family. And she loved Christ and His Church. Her story is of someone who started out with tons of pain and sadness, but ended in healing and joy. Somewhere in her adolescence, at a critical moment when she could easily have spiraled into a life of constant sorrow and trouble, she met Jesus, and her life was miraculously and radically transformed.

She had an incredibly positive outlook. One year, after I was dumped by a girl in college, she sent me the single (yes, a vinyl 45 rpm record!), I Will Survive by Gloria Gaynor. She was right. I did.

She wasn’t afraid of setbacks, nor impressed with greatness. She had no fear of confrontation, conflict or disagreement. Even if it was with a pastor that might also happen to be her son…

She was relentlessly committed to her family. Out of her painful childhood experiences she resolved to cook hot meals for her family every night – and did. She not only raised us, but loved us, spoke truth into our lives, forgave us much, taught us about Jesus, and blessed us by adoring our Dad, her husband, out loud.

She was tirelessly social – Being Armenian, she loved throwing parties – big parties to the tune of 50-100 people at a time. Armenian Pilaf, salad and veggies, along with London broil that Dad would grill, and of course, Baklava, were the staples. Family would gather. Women would cook and catch up. Men would play backgammon and talk loud. Children would run inside and out. Classmates, church members and neighbors (invited or not) were welcome and constantly stopped in for that famous food and energy.

All to say that my Mom gave to us what she didn’t receive in her hard upbringing, which makes her all the more amazing. God gave her a vision for something better and sweeter and lovelier than the hard life she was born into. He gave her what she most longed for, even when she didn’t have it or quite know what it would look like. And through her and Dad, He gave us Himself.

And now, everything she wanted for us, she has – She is Home, at the Feast, with her beloved husband, with the gathered family of God and in the presence of the One she has always been amazed by – for His rescue and forgiving grace. Jesus.

What good, sweet news.

My Mom was amazing. Right now, in between this moment and that service in a few weeks, I get to be her boy. And that is a good thing…

Marie P. Khandjian – November 1, 1929 – December 26, 2013 – RIP

“Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints.”Psalm 116:15

peace.

Christmas Dinner - 2005

The Welcoming Kingdom

October 12, 2013 § 1 Comment

Salad“A community which embodies hospitality to strangers is a sign of contradiction, a place where joy and pain, crises and peace are closely interwoven.”

Christine D. Pohl, Making Room

I was writing at my favorite spot yesterday – in Starbucks at the mall (as I am now). This is rarely an unsatisfying experience, but yesterday it was, because a woman who sat nearby decided to open and then eat a salad with a pungent dressing. In a word, it stunk! I assume she thoroughly enjoyed it, but I smelled it. The aroma was all I could think about (obviously I’m still thinking about it!).

And it wasn’t like there weren’t dozens of empty seats she could have chosen other than one next to mine!

Actually my problem wasn’t with the salad. It was the woman who dared invade my space (are you sensing a twisted rationale here?) with an unwelcome smell. Never mind that she purchased something Starbucks sells and actually encourages people to eat on site!

It got me thinking.

In the scriptures I observe how graciously Jesus entered into the lives of people who constantly inconvenienced Him – it all appears so seamless. He just received people, even crowds, without complaint – when He was exhausted – when His heart was heavy – when His tears flowed – when betrayal and execution were immanent.

Children jumped into His lap. Crowds denied Him rest, even when on a sea vessel attempting a moment of solitude.

None of it was convenient!

But none were turned away either. And still today, He says, ‘Come…’

As I rattled Jesus’ way around in my brain and heart, it occurred to me that He wasn’t gritting His teeth, secretly stewing over the smells, weirdness, troubles and inconveniences of people. He was being who He had always been, reflecting the welcoming presence of His Father. Welcome is the currency of the Kingdom of God.

At the end of the day it wasn’t a salad, but my attitude that stunk up the place. Fortunately Jesus has taken that into account as well. In fact, in spite of this, He became a sweet aroma to the Father on my behalf. Yours too.

That’s good news…

peace.

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