| Clergy Corner

CLERGY CORNER: An Act of God

Posted on 17 October 2018 by LeslieM

Our prayers go out to those who experienced the devastation of Hurricane Michael. In the aftermath, we pray for the restoration of the communities in the Panhandle. We continue to pray for our community as well through this season. When one part of our state is hurting, we all share the pain together.

I know that the phrase “act of God” is one used by insurance companies and will continue to be used regardless of my commentary. As a person who advocates God for a living, I do feel that I can weigh in on this phrase and its usage as well as challenge the people who use this phrase to broaden their perspective.

When a tornado devastates a town we call it an “act of God.” When a river floods acres of farmland, we call it an “act of God.” When an earthquake hits a poor nation killing tens of thousands of people, we call it an “act of God.” It seems that we avoid the word “God” in public lest we offend anybody, yet atheists, agnostics and believers alike use the phrase “act of God” when a tornado, flood, earthquake or a hurricane devastates their community.

Let us talk about times when you do not hear the phrase “act of God,” and you probably should. When my family rented kayaks and explored the mangroves on the gulf coast. I was so overwhelmed by God’s creation evident with the wildlife that I called it an “act of God.” When I went hiking with my Boy Scout troop through the Rocky Mountains of Colorado and saw the majesty of snow top mountains in the heat of the summer, I couldn’t help but call it an “act of God.” When snorkeling in Key West with my church’s Youth Group near a natural reef with schools of colorful fish surrounding me I could not help but call it an “act of God.” We reserve the phrase “act of God” when we talk about the devastation of nature but what about nature’s splendor?

I know, in the aftermath of Hurricane Michael, neighbors are going to pull together and help each other and form a lifelong bond. I call this an “act of God.” I know that families will mourn the loss of their home but come to a profound realization that they are blessed with their family who are safe and sound. When the gratitude of family eclipses the loss of material items, this is what I call an “act of God.” I know that people from all over the state and country will come from churches, synagogues and mosques lending a hand, praying and setting aside their divisions for the purpose of doing “acts of God.”

God created nature and nature seems to have a mind of its own. Hurricanes, tornados, floods and earthquakes have been our constant companions and when we experience “acts of nature” we respond with “acts of God.”

I grew up in a state where blizzards happen in the winter and tornados happen in the summer. I went to college in a community with a river that flooded almost every spring after the thaw of snow and ice. I did my pastoral internship literally on the San Andreas Fault and experienced an earthquake. And, for the last 20 plus years, I have lived in Florida and can recall several hurricanes.

I am pretty sure blizzards and tornados occurred in Minnesota long before my family settled there. I know that the Red River of the north flooded Fargo, North Dakota long before there was a place called Fargo. The San Andreas Fault went through the San Bernardino Mountains long before San Andreas and San Bernardino were even born. And you can bet Florida always had hurricanes even before we started naming them.

The only thing more constant than “acts of Nature” is God. Like “acts of Nature,” God has always been our constant companion. In the wake of natural disaster, it is my prayer that good things will happen. And when that does, then I will know what to call it. It is an “act of God.”

Pastor Gross is a pastor of Zion Lutheran Church, located at 959 SE 6 Ave., Deerfield Beach, FL 33441. For more information, call 954-421-3146 or visit www.zion-lutheran.org.

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CLERGY CORNER: Clergy appreciation

Posted on 11 October 2018 by LeslieM

Since 1992, the month of October has been Clergy Appreciation Month. It is designed for you to encourage and thank the religious leaders in your life. You should let your pastors know that you love them and support them. In addition, let them know why you appreciate their hard work and labor of love. We tend to always hear about all the Ministers that mess up or make a mistake, but we don’t hear very much at all about all the good things that are happening in churches all across the country. Pastors are saving lives, helping families, feeding the poor, and helping hurting people and we do it with God’s help. The scriptures I have here are ones that you really need to pay attention to and apply them to your life.

HEBREWS 13:7

7 Remember your leaders who taught you the word of God. Think of all the good that has come from their lives, and follow the example of their faith. NLT

The ministry provided by pastors and their families is very unique. God has chosen them to watch over His children and take care of the spiritual well-being of their congregation.

1 THESSALONIANS 5:12-13

12 Dear brothers and sisters, honor those who are your leaders in the Lord’s work. They work hard among you and give you spiritual guidance.

13 Show them great respect and wholehearted love because of their work. And live peacefully with each other. NLT

When a pastor becomes worn down and worn out, the very souls of his congregants are at risk. Pastors and their families live under unbelievable stress and strain. Their lives are played out in a glass house, with the whole congregation and the whole public scrutinizing their every move. They are expected to have model families, to be wonderful people, to always be ready to help, to never have problems, and to have all the answers you need to keep your own lives on track. These are unrealistic expectations to place on anyone, yet most of us are let down when a pastor becomes overwhelmed, seems sad, lets us down, or totally burns out. That is why God teaches us to identify and honor His servants.

1 TIMOTHY 5:17

17 Elders who do their work well should be respected and paid well, especially those who work hard at both preaching and teaching. NLT

The good news is that you can make a difference! Clergy Appreciation Month is one way you can return the favor and encourage your spiritual leaders and let them know that you care about them.

There are four easy ways to help your pastors and their families feel appreciated:

1. Buy them a card

2. Buy them a gift card to a restaurant, movie theatre, or department store

3. Share with them, in writing, how much they have blessed you and helped you and your family

4. Encourage others to do the same. Show appreciation and honor your pastor and his family this year. It will encourage them more than you ever may realize.

Tony Guadagnino is the pastor at Christian Love Fellowship Church, located at 801 SE 10 St., Deerfield Beach, FL 33441. For more information, call 954-428-8980 or visit www.clfministries.org.

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CLERGY CORNER: Strive to be a man

Posted on 04 October 2018 by LeslieM

On Yom Kippur, the High Priest performed the intricate and nuanced service in the Holy Temple. At the conclusion of it all, the Torah offers its final stipulation: Nobody may be present with him at the time. The High Priest must be there all by himself.

But why? Why does the Torah care so much if someone else was with him in the sacred space of the Temple?

Similarly, when G-d summons Moses to ascend Mt. Sinai to receive the second set of Tablets to bring down to the people on Yom Kippur, He instructs Moses: “Come up in the morning to Mt. Sinai… And no man should ascend with you. No man should appear on the entire mountain.”

Why? What’s the big deal if someone else ascends the mountain?

When the greatest Jewish leader is introduced to us for the first time, the Torah tells us that he left the palace where he was raised, went out to his brothers, and observed an Egyptian beating a Jew to death. The Torah says these words: “He turned here, and there, and he saw there was no man. He struck the Egyptian and buried him in the sand.”

This is the deeper meaning in the famous Mishnah in the Ethics of the Fathers, quoting the great sage Hillel: “In a place where there are no men, strive to be a man.”

It is the source of the expression, “Be a Man!” But what exactly is the meaning of his teaching of Hillel? If everyone around me is behaving like a beast, I should still be a Mentch? Obviously! Do I need Hillel to teach that to me?

The Chassidic masters explain that Hillel was teaching us something deeper. How do you become a real man? A real person? How do you reach your potential? If you strive to be a man, you have to imagine that there is no one else. I have a task to do right here, right now, that nobody else in the past, present, and future, can achieve.

Every man is obliged to say,” say the Sages, “the world was created for me.”

This is not narcissism. It means that I matter. I matter for real. There is something only I can achieve in the world. And the whole world is waiting for me to bring that light into the cosmos.

For what you have to do in this world, there really is no man besides you.

Rabbi Tzvi Dechter is the director of Chabad of North Broward Beaches, located in the Venetian Isle Shopping Center at 2025 E. Sample Rd. in Lighthouse Point. For all upcoming events, please visit www.JewishLHP.com.

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CLERGY CORNER: Follow the instructions

Posted on 27 September 2018 by LeslieM

Most adults have likely felt the frustration of attempting to assemble something without following the instructions. A child’s toy, a bicycle or even a small appliance may seem easy to put together, but if there are extra pieces laying around afterwards or it doesn’t function properly, we must usually pull out the manual or instruction sheet to determine where we went wrong. In some cases, we may have to start all over again. Life is full of scenarios where we need the wisdom of guidance and directions. The doctor’s prescription outlines what medicine we should take, when we should take it, and in what amount. Traffic laws exist to help us navigate the roads and highways safely. Career-specific training enables us to effectively fulfill the expectations of the job and our employer.

Many people have wished that life came with an instruction manual. Couldn’t we all use a set of directions that guided our decision-making, helped us to avoid disaster, and positioned us for getting the best out of our relationships? There are all sorts of guides and manuals that offer tips for attaining success, making more money, solving relationship issues and so on. I would question if any of them could truly be considered a life-manual, however. That designation would have to be reserved for a set of instructions that speak to every area of life, not just one, two or a few. Thankfully, one does exist in the form of what we call the bible or God’s word.

Believers understand that the Scriptures reveal the principles and practices that govern our relationship with our Creator. He has communicated to us how He purposed that we should live, and what we can expect from Him. Often referred to as a covenant relationship, our interaction with God is outlined in the instructions, commands, practices and promises of the bible.

The blessings and benefits that He offers are given to us in return for our worship and obedience. That may sound archaic and bizarre to those who believe they can live according to their own way and get everything they want out of life. Reality has proven, however, that we need guidelines, directions and instructions on this journey. Too many people have come to ruin by attempting to do it their way, ignoring the guidance of God or others.

King Solomon long ago warned, “there is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death(Proverbs 14:12 NASB).

The New Testament (covenant) offers guidance through the teachings of Jesus and His disciples. They show us how to honor God, live harmoniously with each other, and find fulfillment in life. Do you want to get along better with others? Try forgiveness (Matthew 6:14) and love (Matthew 5:44). Do you desire less stress in life? Trust God and stop worrying (Matthew 6:25). Does your marriage need help? Try mutual love and respect as God prescribes (Ephesians 5:33). Do you need to do a better job at managing the difficulties of life? Try viewing them as beneficial tests (James 1:2-3). Do you want to be a better leader? Live an exemplary life before those who follow you (1 Peter 5:3).

God’s word teaches us how to live humbly, compassionately, and faithfully. It speaks to us about proper ordering of our priorities and shows how we can govern our selfish desires. Its relevance is not just for preparation for the next life but in practical guidance for existing in this world. All of us will struggle to find peace, comfort and balance in life. We will all occasionally make mistakes and face obstacles. God’s word is there to assist us through all of life’s nuances guiding us to true fulfillment. We must learn to read it, trust it, practice it and apply it. We must simply choose to follow its instructions.

Bishop Patrick L. Kelly is the pastor of Cathedral Church of God, 365 S. Dixie Hwy., Deerfield Beach, FL 33441. 954-427-0302.

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CLERGY CORNER: The hands of God

Posted on 20 September 2018 by LeslieM

Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it.”

(1 Corinthians 12:27 ESV)

There is a story about a church in the city of Berlin that suffered damage from World War II. Among the items damaged was a statue of Jesus. While the statue was, for the most part, intact, the hands of Jesus were missing. The congregation responded: “Let us replace the hands of Jesus.” The pastor of the congregation replied: “No, let this be a reminder to us all. We are the hands of Jesus.”

We are the hands of Jesus. We who are called to serve on God’s behalf are, in fact, the hands of God. And with our hands, we do God’s work.

Zion Lutheran Church, my congregation, is a part of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. Our national church designated Sunday, Sept. 9 as the national day of service. This day is appropriately called: “God’s Work, Our Hands Sunday.” Zion participated by collecting, organizing and packing shoeboxes with items that benefit mariners who come in and out of the Port of Everglades. We supported the inter-denominational ministry of the Seafarer’s House. And, through our efforts, 82 boxes were put together and distributed as a way to say to these men who spend months and months away from their family at sea: “Zion loves you, and we want to give you this gift.” Considering the fact that most of these mariners are from other nations, this project was both local and global.

The reason I share this with you is because of the nature of God’s blessings. We know that we are using our hands to do God’s work. At the end of the day, we hope to be a part of God’s blessing to the Seafarer’s House ministry. In truth, this was every bit as much of a blessing to Zion. In fact, the joy of this experience is still warming my heart.

We gathered in our fellowship hall after our worship service. All ages from elementary through senior citizen were represented organizing, stuffing boxes, wrapping boxes, writing cards, you name it. There was a lot of work going on, but there was just as much laughter and joy. We, of course, had food, music, and many opportunities for our members to visit with each other. And, when it was over, we were blessed to have 82 boxes stuffed and wrapped.

The Seafarer’s House was grateful for our work. I said to them “Thank YOU. You gave us an opportunity to serve, to bond, and to build the body of Christ. Thank YOU for YOUR gift to Zion.”

It is easy for a faith community to get into a rut. Sometimes, I think the word “rut” comes from “routine.” We get fixed into patterns and every once in a while we need to be challenged to get out of our routine, our patterned behaviors, our “ruts.” Serving people is the easiest way to make this happen. And there are as many ways to serve as there are people willing to serve. Our imaginations can run wild thinking of ways people could benefit from our communities of faith.

Imagine if an effort was made that was more than a denominational effort, as was “God’s Work, Our Hands.” Imagine what would happen if every faith community designated a day of service. I can only imagine how many people would be blessed.

But I remind you, among the number of blessed would be the ones being a blessing. As a pastor of a congregation that values serving the community, I am extremely blessed. And when our community of faith puts our heads, hearts and hands together, I was blessed again. And there is one other thing that I almost forgot to mention, “It was fun!”

I know that if I asked the average faith community: “Do you want to be blessed?” The answer would be “Of course.” The good news is that you already are. You have within your community people of all ages with many gifts. You can put those gifts to work and be blessed again, and again, and again, if you put those gifts to the work of community service. We are God’s hands.let us do God’s work.

Pastor Gross is a pastor of Zion Lutheran Church, located at 959 SE 6 Ave., Deerfield Beach, FL 33441. For more information, call 954-421-3146 or visit www.zion-lutheran.org.

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CLERGY CORNER: Footprints

Posted on 13 September 2018 by LeslieM

One night a man had a dream. He dreamed he was walking along the beach with the Lord. Across the sky flashed scenes from his life. For each scene, he noticed two sets of footprints in the sand: one belonging to him and the other to the Lord.

When the last scene of his life flashed before him, he looked back at the footprints in the sand. He noticed that many times along the path of his life there was only one set of footprints. He also noticed that it happened at the very lowest and saddest times in his life.

This really bothered him, and he questioned the Lord about it: “Lord, You said that once I decided to follow You, You’d walk with me all the way. But I have noticed that during the most troublesome times in my life, there is only one set of footprints. I don’t understand why, when I needed You most, You would leave me.”

The Lord replied, “My precious, precious child, I love you and I would never leave you. During your times of trial and suffering, when you see only one set of footprints, it was then that I carried you.

Author Unknown

Dream the impossible dream. All dreams that come from God seem impossible at first. However, do not forget that all things are possible with God.

Deuteronomy 31:8: Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the Lord will personally go ahead of you. He will be with you; he will neither fail you nor abandon you.”

NLT

When you feel discouraged, take heart: God’s promise to never leave you or abandon you is always there to get you through your troubles. Why is it that we tend to turn to Him as the last resort when He is always faithfully by our side? Are you afraid of your future? Are you afraid to go after your dreams (Maybe even to dream your dreams)? Are you afraid to believe that you can achieve your dreams? Do you ever feel lonely? Do you ever feel like what you are going through you are going through alone? Do you ever feel like you were stuck in a pit with no way out? Reread the above verse, Deuteronomy 31:8. What does this verse do to your fears or feelings of loneliness?

Psalm 23 can be such an encouragement in times of trouble! Take a fresh look at this famous Psalm (read it today, do not wait) and be comforted that God has walked with you, not only during the good times, but through your bad times as well. Do you ever feel like you are in a pit and your dreams have no chance of ever coming true? Don’t quit in the pit. Always remember that the dream never dies, just the dreamer.

Remember that God is always with you leading you, guiding you and protecting you. You are never alone. Don’t quit when you’re in the pit. You only lose if you quit. Don’t be afraid to dream the impossible dream and live each day to accomplish it. Continually encourage yourself with the Word of God.

Tony Guadagnino is the pastor at Christian Love Fellowship Church, located at 801 SE 10 St., Deerfield Beach, FL 33441. For more information, call 954-428-8980 or visit www.clfministries.org.

Reprinted from 3-31-2011

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CLERGY CORNER: Don’t let the world change your calendar

Posted on 05 September 2018 by LeslieM

A student at Stanford University asked his professor permission to skip class because of Rosh Hashanah.

I am sorry,” the professor said. “You must attend this class. Your holiday cannot cancel it.”

But professor, it is Rosh Hashanah!”

Sir, do you realize that the Academic calendar of Stanford has been already arranged 10 years ago? A decade ago, we planned out our entire academic year, to ensure maximum achievement and success. Do you really expect me to change that for you now?”

The student went to his fraternity room, came back a few minutes later with a Jewish calendar.

Sir, look at this calendar. It has been established not 10 years ago, but 2000 years ago, by the great sage Rabbi Hillel, who established the exact date for every Jewish holiday over the next 3000 years!”

The professor remained silent.

Jews often say “Rosh Hashanah is late this year” or “The holidays are early this year.” In fact, the holidays never are early or late; they are always on time, according to the Jewish calendar!

That student in Stanford inspired me. Don’t let the world change your calendar; let your calendar change the world!

The Hebrew word for ‘secular’ – chol — also means ‘sand.’ This tells us how Judaism views secularism. Secularism is not bad. It is just like sand. Sand does not possess the power of stability. It shifts and moves; it is swept by the sea and blown by the passing wind. It lacks roots.

This is what our children lack without religion in their life. They can be wonderful people, but they are deprived of roots. They are on their own, detached from any constitutive commitments to the past, the future, tradition, a set of relationships, a substantive identity, a sense of binding loyalties, a firm foundation of values, ideals, dreams and morals. That individual, the bearer of rights but not responsibilities, free to enter any lifestyle but at home in none, is the human equivalent of chol, “like chaff blown by the wind.”

What is kodesh — holiness? Our connection to the past and our face turned to what is above. Kodesh – holiness — is the antidote to the rootlessness of chol — Secularism. In this world view, Rosh Hashanah is never late. We do not fix and bend our calendar to every passing wind. A person needs roots, a person needs an unshakable core. That is religion.

Kedushah — holiness means connection, to the universe beyond the self, to generations past and future, to a community of meaning, and to a transcendental reality that links us, ethically and existentially, to the totality of being. It is a voice which speaks persuasively of the covenant of marriage, the sanctity of the family, the moral challenge of parenthood; it is the Jewish view of community, collective responsibility, and the values of tsedakah and faith. It is the importance of education as the conversation between the generations, and the school as the citadel of civilization. It is the deeply humane Jewish view of the sanctity of life and its implications for medical ethics. It is our responsibility as guardians of the natural environment for the sake of future generations.

Above all, it is the voice teaching us of the dignity of human life, our power to change the world one mitzvah at a time, and the meaningfulness of history as the arena of redemption.

Have a happy and healthy sweet new year!

Rabbi Tzvi Dechter is the director of Chabad of North Broward Beaches, located in the Venetian Isle Shopping Center at 2025 E. Sample Rd. in Lighthouse Point. For all upcoming events, please visit www.JewishLHP.com. See Pg. 7 for information on their Rosh Hashanah services, and more about the holiday on pg. 6.

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CLERGY CORNER: “This could be the start of something big”

Posted on 29 August 2018 by LeslieM

Aretha Franklin, God rest her soul, sang many wonderful songs and one of my favorites is “This could be the start of something big.” It is certainly not one of her greatest hits, but the reason I am drawn to it is because it is a song for optimists, a song for those about to start a new and exciting adventure in their lives. There are many new starts in each of our lives – a new interest, year, job, home, town, friend, or love, and each one offers us an opportunity to use our talents in new ways and to learn new things about our world and the people we encounter.

Most of us have young people in our lives who, at this time of year, are starting a new and exciting adventure in their lives – a new school year. Now, I am the first to concede that the life lessons we learn are not all taught in our schools. My parents and grandparents had limited schooling, but they taught us many of the things we needed to know about life, family and relationships. Our schools, however, are our formal places of learning. It is in our schools that we are taught how to make a living, how the world works, how our human history progresses, and what we did, thought and created along the way, as well as what we need to know in order to co-exist, with civility, in the future of our multi-cultural and multi-ethnic world.

What should we expect of teachers when we turn our young people over to them and ask them to advance their education? When the course of study involves one of the many skilled trades that are vital to the effective functioning of our world, then the skills to be taught are obvious. If something needs to be built, teach them how to build it; if something needs to be installed, teach them how to install it; and, if something needs to be repaired, teach them how to repair it. Walt Whitman wrote of the nobility of this work and the dedication that is necessary to do it well: “I hear America singing / the carpenter, the mason, the boatman, the shoemaker, the wood-cutter and the ploughboy / each singing what belongs to him or her and to none other.”

When the course of study involves the natural world, or one of our many scientific disciplines, then a critical skill that needs to be taught, or enhanced, is the power of observation. Men like Aristotle, Copernicus, Ben Franklin and Alexander Fleming, used their powers of observation; they looked at the world, and into the heavens, and saw things differently than what their predecessors had seen. Were it not for them, we would still think the Earth is flat and that it is the center of the universe. We would still be reading by candlelight and helpless against infectious diseases. And, finally, when the course of study involves the liberal arts – religion, literature, language, history, philosophy, political science, sociology, fine arts and creative writing – the critical skill that needs to be taught is imagination. Without imagination, none of us are able to see how all our studies fit together in an operational whole.

That brings us to the most awesome gift we receive from education – the gift of curiosity, and curiosity is the responsibility of those who learn as well as those who teach. The skills of dedication, observation, imagination are all tied together by curiosity and make us lifetime learners. We become optimists with the ability to see and understand our world, and our place in it, as well as God’s will for us and the strength we need to follow Him. Learn something new every day, it “could be the start of something big.”

Rev. M. Tracy Smith, SSA, Rector is from the Saint Peter’s Anglican Church, 1416 SE 2 Terr., Deerfield Beach, FL 33441. For more information, call 954-695-0336. Wednesday: Holy Communion at 10 a.m., Sunday: Holy Communion at 10 a.m.

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CLERGY CORNER: Don’t let it spoil!

Posted on 23 August 2018 by LeslieM

Damaged goods, spoiled food and a tarnished reputation each have one thing in common. That which was once purposeful and beneficial has lost its value, and become undesirable and unusable. The rise of the #MeToo movement has revealed the spoilage in character of men who were once respected by the public. Their inability to maintain integrity has caused pain, and brought shame, to their victims of harassment and abuse. Some viewed as leaders in their fields have been diminished in the public view for the numerous accusations from women, and men, who have found the courage to come forward. Many of their friends, acquaintances, business partners and fans have distanced themselves, or turned against them. They have learned the painful truth that the dirty deeds done in the dark eventually become exposed by the light.

This past week the issue hit closer to home as a grand jury report out of Pennsylvania revealed numerous instances of abuse at the hands of clergy. How tragic and disheartening when men in positions of power and influence are accused of heinous actions. How much more reprehensible when the victims are innocent and impressionable children. When the perpetrators are from the ranks of those who should be champions of morality and ethics, the pain is indescribable and the damage incalculable.

Centuries ago King Solomon made a powerful observation that speaks to this propensity. In Ecclesiastes 10:1, he noted “Dead flies putrefy the perfumer’s ointment, and cause it to give off a foul odor; So does a little folly to one respected for wisdom and honor.”

Admittedly, the actions of many of the accused amount to much more than a little folly, but they perhaps began as small indiscretions and seemingly tiny desires. The point is that they resulted in spoilage of character and loss of integrity. Anyone who gives thought and expression to every desire that appeals to them will soon come to ruin. Self-control and maintenance of integrity is necessary for all of us to enjoy healthy relationships with our fellowman.

No one wants to be involved with a person they cannot trust. Despite the erosion of morality in society, the world still needs and longs for people of integrity. In a recent Leadership Retreat in which I took part, we, the students, were reminded that integrity is the essential component looked for in leaders whether they be in the military, business or the church. Dwight Eisenhower once stated that “Without (integrity), no real success is possible no matter whether it is on a section gang, a football field, in an army or in an office.” And in Proverbs 11:3, it is noted that “The integrity of the upright will guide them, but the perversity of the unfaithful will destroy them.”

The maintenance of our integrity begins with self-awareness. We should be honest with ourselves about ourselves. As we learned in the retreat, “A few moments of brutal honesty are worth a lifetime of self-deception.” Self-awareness should lead to self-management. What do we need to control, correct or cancel? Self-management then leads to character, competence and credibility.

It is easy to trust people who are disciplined, honest and considerate of others. The No. 1 word of the Year in 2005, according to Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary, was “Integrity.” The scandals of the day brought the issue to the forefront of the public discourse. It may well be near the top of the list in these days. King Solomon viewed it as precious and as valuable as the perfumer’s ointment.

The lesson of his observation is that we should maintain our character by guarding our integrity. We can’t allow flies to intermingle with it and cause it to putrefy. Don’t let it spoil!

Bishop Patrick L. Kelly is the pastor of Cathedral Church of God, 365 S. Dixie Hwy., Deerfield Beach, FL 33441. 954-427-0302.

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CLERGY CORNER: Bringing back the harvest

Posted on 15 August 2018 by LeslieM

You shall observe the festival of harvest, of the first fruits of your labor, of what you sow in the field. You shall observe the festival of ingathering at the end of the year, when you gather in from the field the fruit of your labor. Exodus 23:16 NRSV

The transition from summer to autumn is something we all experience. Even if we live far from the closest farm or in a place where the trees remain green and the weather remains hot, we know it is autumn because school is back in session and football is back on TV. There is an energy that comes with this change of season and we see attendance pick up in church as well.

The word autumn and fall are used interchangeably everywhere, even in places where leaves do not fall from the trees. In rural America, another word can be used in lieu of autumn or fall — harvest.

Harvest brings back memories of my youth in rural Minnesota. My town’s entire economy revolved around the single time when farmers gathered their crops. In the rural Midwest, we put the word “culture” in agriculture because our culture was so dependent on the farms that surrounded us.

During the summer, we followed the crops. I remember my grandma and grandpa, retired farmers, would hop in their car and drive out to the fields just to see how the crops were doing. In the café, you would hear people talk about crops the way some people talked about their favorite sports team.

Looks like a rough year for beans.”

How ‘bout that corn?”

Tough year for sugar beets but I have high hopes for next year.”

Even town people earned money doing work for farmers.

Harvest was a happy time. Even during difficult years, God always found a way to provide and we were grateful. We celebrated in church with worship and potluck dinners. Even though our liturgical calendar did not specify a day of celebration, we artificially inserted the harvest and, truth be told, it was right up there with Christmas and Easter. Well, not quite, but pretty close.

My kids are native Floridians. Even though Florida is every bit as agricultural as any state in the midwest, my kids grew up close to the beach and far from any fields.

My wife and I would joke: “I think they think fruits and vegetable grow in boxes in the produce section of the grocery store.” (If we didn’t make an effort to show them the contrary, they probably would have believed that).

I love the autumn with the change of routine and the slight change of weather. I love the excitement that goes with the beginning of school. Even as an adult, I love the smell of a brand new notebook or a box of crayons. I enjoy a good game of football, as much as the next guy. But I do miss the harvest. I miss the spiritual component of autumn that reminds us all that God’s providence is abundant. And I do believe that it is time to bring it back.

For our friends in the Jewish faith, the High Holidays definitely have roots in the agricultural cycle of God’s people. There is a connection between the New Year and the harvest that is scriptural. God commands his people to celebrate!

When I look at our liturgical calendar, the calendar that sets the seasons of our liturgical year, we are in “ordinary time” until Advent. Ordinary time? Give me a break. Yes, Thanksgiving is generally connected with harvest, of sorts, but it is not officially recognized as a liturgical holiday, at least not for Lutherans.

If we bring back the harvest, we bring a spirit of gratitude and thanksgiving back to our culture. We recognize the link between our Creator and the food that we have on the table. We stand to gain and lose nothing in the process. The need to bring back the harvest is so self-evident to me, that I cannot believe that we didn’t do this sooner. God is the Lord of the harvest, let us celebrate as God commands us to do.

It is time to bring back the harvest!

Pastor Gross is a pastor of Zion Lutheran Church, located at 959 SE 6 Ave., Deerfield Beach, FL 33441. For more information, call 954-421-3146 or visit www.zion-lutheran.org.

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