| Clergy Corner

CLERGY CORNER: When words matter in the dark

Posted on 15 July 2016 by LeslieM

Minutes before midnight on Dec. 29, 1979, Eastern Airlines flight 401, originating from New York’s John F. Kennedy Airport, with 163 passengers and 13 crew on board, crashed into the Everglades, just short of their destination, Miami International Airport. In total, 96 lives were lost due to a faulty light.

While on approach to land, the nose wheel “down-and-locked” indicator light failed to illuminate. A missed approach was executed, which included climbing to 2000 ft. over the Everglades. The crew re-engaged the autopilot and investigated.

During the commotion, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) determined the captain, when turning to speak with the flight engineer, may have inadvertently disconnected the autopilot, resulting in a shallow descent. Given the moonless night and dark terrain below, it would have been near impossible to visually recognize the departure from the established altitude.

Allow me to pause. Do you believe what we say and how we say it matters? Proverbs 18:21 teaches that “death and life are in the power of the tongue.” James likens the tongue to a small rudder which “makes a huge ship turn wherever the pilot chooses to go — “for, if we could control our tongues, we would be perfect and could also control ourselves in every other way.” (James 3:2-3). It’s important for us to understand that even seemingly insignificant words carry this same power.

We could argue the first link broke in the chain of events leading to the disaster stems from a seemingly insignificant piece of hardware. This malfunctioning light interrupted a normal approach and diverted the crews’ attention — a large catastrophe caused by a little light bulb.

If you’re like me, the latest catastrophes around the world can be overwhelming. I understand the “call to love” more. But can my personal choice to do so really make any difference in the grand scheme of the world’s problems? Then, I am reminded of Eastern Airlines Flight 401. Little things can make a huge difference — for better … or for worse.

For instance, now, if the autopilot is bumped off, an audible alert sounds. Another modest improvement, which has saved countless lives, is the concept of “pilot-flying” and “pilot-not-flying.” In the event of a situation, as with Flight 401, a crew-member’s sole responsibility would have been to positively monitor the instruments, immediately noticing the break from altitude. It’s simple, yet powerful — like our words (and even our actions).

From this day forward, recognize the power you possess to share love with others. It may seem trite, but let someone into traffic ahead of you. Buy the lunch of the person behind you in the drive-through. Visit a nursing home or VA. Write a personal note to someone. Call your parents. When someone is walking your way on the sidewalk, make room for them to pass — or honk less in traffic.

Love is a verb with limitless opportunities to be expressed. And while governing authorities may serve as relief, it is the power of love, exhibited on the personal level — albeit even minuscule — which heals a relationship, a family, a neighborhood, a community, a city, a state, a nation, a world. Never underestimate the capacity of simple words … it’s the power of life and death.

C.J. Wetzler is the NextGen pastor at First Baptist Church of Deerfield Beach. Before transitioning into full-time ministry, CJ was a commercial airline captain and high school leadership and science teacher. For questions or comments he can be reached at cj@deerfieldfirst.com.

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CLERGY CORNER: The passing of Elie Wiesel

Posted on 07 July 2016 by LeslieM

Survivors of hell have an acute focus on the objective. They have little time for pettiness and time-wasting.”Elie Wiesel

The world lost a great and indefatigable humanitarian this week with the passing of acclaimed author, journalist, academic and human rights activist Elie Wiesel. He was 87 years old.

Wiesel, a Holocaust survivor who endured the notorious death camps of both Auschwitz and Buchenwald, was also a prolific writer who authored some five-dozen books, both fiction and non-fiction, many of which related to social justice, Israel, the Holocaust and Judaism.

In one particularly moving conversation, Wiesel shared with a friend of mine R’ Simon, how he had basically given up on life after the war and the atrocities, and losses, he witnessed. Even after meeting French author François Mauriac, who persuaded him to serve as a witness and chronicle his experiences, he still felt dead inside and could not bring himself to personally commit to any life-affirming activities. But then things changed.

He told Simon, “I credit your father as being one of the first people who altered my view and attitude to life. Though he, himself, had suffered under Soviet oppression, losing his parents at a young age, your father was a shining example of positivity and celebrating life and its possibilities.”

He paused, took a deep breath and continued: “And then, in the mid-‘60s, your father introduced me to the Lubavitcher Rebbe-Menachem Mendel Schneerson. You father persuaded me to go see him, which I ultimately did. After hours of dialogue and subsequent correspondence, the Rebbe was the one who finally convinced me to marry and build a family. His most compelling argument – which I could not refute – was that the only and ultimate response to Nazi destruction was to build a family and perpetuate the memory of those they wished to obliterate.

This changed my life, forever. In the single-most important decision of my life, I married Marion in 1969, and, then, in 1972, we had our son – our pride and joy – Shlomo Elisha, named after my father, who perished in Buchenwald,” he said.

Clearly very emotional, Wiesel walked Simon over to the photos on his desk. Pointing to pictures of his son and his grandchildren, he simply said: “Everything is worth this.”

Simon once asked him whether it is true that marching into the gas chambers, Jews would sing Ani Ma’amin [I believe], a heart-stirring melody expressing one’s complete and unwavering faith in the coming of the Messiah, who will usher in a new world order of peace. Wiesel replied that the barracks where the Jews were held was a distance from the death chambers. But very often he did hear the whimpering prayers of the Jews near him. The cry of the Shema (sacred passages), the reciting of Kaddish (mourners prayer), the Shabbat or holiday prayers, and also, the singing of Ani Ma’amin.

If I may ask,” Simon continued, “How do you explain this devotion? In the face of utter abandonment, of a God who was totally concealed, allowing His people, His children, to be decimated, the Jews had the total right to be angry at God. How do you explain the fact that instead they thanked and prayed to Him, sang His praises and declared their absolute belief that He would redeem them?!”

Wiesel’s response captures his essence: “Things really don’t make sense. Life is mostly absurd. We have seen man at his worst. But for the Jew, insanity is not abnormal. I can’t tell you what was going on in the minds, hearts and souls of the Jews who walked to their deaths. But I can tell you that every single one of these sacred people knew one thing. And they declared it with their prayers and their songs:

You can take our bodies, but you can’t take our souls. You can take our lives but not our faith. We will prevail. If not today, tomorrow.

If not tomorrow, the next day. If not us, our children. If not our children, our grandchildren. But we will prevail.

Ani Maamin… I believe with complete faith…”

Dearest Elie Wiesel, you have made your mark. You have served as a child of your father’s and mother’s, and of so many fathers and mothers. You have brought into this world a son and grandchildren – and millions of students, considered to be children as well. You have prevailed, as has the Jewish people. We will live to see the world as promised to us. And if not today, tomorrow.

In 1973, Wiesel composed a cantata titled, “Ani Maamin: A Song Lost and Found Again.” The song concludes with the following verses:

I believe in you,

Even against your will.

Even if you punish me

For believing in you.

Blessed are the fools

Who shout their faith.

Blessed are the fools

Who go on laughing.

Who mock the man who

mocks the Jew,

Who help their brothers

Singing, over and over and


I believe.

I believe in the coming of

the Messiah,

And though he tarries,

I wait daily for his coming.

I believe.

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CLERGY CORNER: The summer vacation of the church

Posted on 30 June 2016 by LeslieM

Trinity Season is the long summer vacation of the Christian Church. It lasts from Ascension Day (40 days after Easter) until Advent Sunday (usually the first Sunday in December), a span of seven or eight months. The rest of the year is filled with days and weeks of intense activity — a myriad of events that celebrate the life and teachings of our Lord and define Christianity. Our Lord spent six intense days of activity during the Creation; but, the seventh day, He rested. He surely knew our lives could benefit by following the same pattern, so He gave us Trinity Season to rest and re-charge our batteries.

Now, whether our own vacation is a week or more long, or simply a series of “day-cations,” we should consider our vacation a gift from our Lord and use it, as it was given, for our joy and benefit.

That raises a question … how should we use it for our joy and benefit? We are all aware of the things we need in our lives to make our lives work: time with our Lord, family, friends and time with ourselves. If you are anything like me, you have probably discovered that when your life is out of sync, you have let some of the things that make your life work, slip out of your life. Our Lord’s gift of Trinity Season gives each of us an opportunity to gaze deep into our hearts and identify those things that are truly necessary for our well-being and make certain they are right where they need to be.

Summer vacation and time with our Lord: When we gaze deep in our hearts, we had better see our Lord looking back at us, because Saint Paul reminds us, “In him we live and move and have our being.” There is no life apart from our Lord or apart from the life He planned for us.

Our summer vacation is a perfect time to make certain we are walking, hand-and-hand, with Him, in the same direction. Revisiting our prayer life is a wonderful way to enrich our walk with Him. The words we use are not important. He knows our concerns and what is in our hearts. Whether we are newbies or oldsters to daily prayer, the way we do it is the same. Find a quiet place, turn off the chatter in our minds, and be with the one who loves us most. Speak to Him as we do to a loved one, and listen to Him as we do our most trusted friends. If we make this a part of our summer vacation, then, come fall, He will have made us brand new.

Summer vacation time with family and friends: It is no secret that our Lord made us social beings, some more than others, but all in need of some measure of companionship. If you are blessed with ideal relationships with family and friends, then you have a wonderful summer vacation ahead of you. However, if you are like me, and “wonderful” does not describe all your relationships, then our Lord has given us a summer vacation promise of how He heals broken relationships. Again the words of Saint Paul: “Let peace of our Lord rule in your hearts. Forgive one another, and, above all things, put on love which binds everything together in perfect harmony.” Love is the best slave for hurt relationships. Smear it on heavy and cover all that hurts!

Summer vacation and time with ourselves: Life can be exhausting, both physically, emotionally and spiritually. Shakespeare famously said that “sleep knits up the raveled sleeve of care, is sore labor’s bath and is the balm of hurt minds.” True enough, but I say that summer vacations also have a restorative effect on our exhaustion! Yes, it is good to spend time with ourselves, or as someone once said, to be alone “with the beating of our own heart.” But the wonderful thing about spending time with ourselves is that it gives us the opportunity to invite others to come into our world, and for them to invite us into theirs, so we can all share our joys, benefits and challenges together.

If all this sounds a little bit like “kumbayah” to you, please don’t blame me. Perhaps we can use some of that in this disjointed world in which we live.

Have a wonderful summer, reconnect with all those who are dear to you, and may the Lord bless us all.

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. Morning Prayer at 10 a.m. on Wednesday; Holy Communion at 10 a.m. on Sunday, and 7 p.m. on Thursday.

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CLERGY CORNER: Challenges, comebacks and championships

Posted on 23 June 2016 by LeslieM

The 2016 NBA Champion Cleveland Cavaliers had quite the battle in winning the series last Sunday against the Golden State Warriors. Despite being down 3-1 by the time game five rolled around, LeBron James and his teammates found the will to defeat the defending champion Warriors for three straight games, and made history in the process. The odds-makers were sure that Golden State would repeat since no team had ever overcome a 3-1 deficit. A further hurdle was the fact that Cleveland had not had a major sports championship team since 1964, and had never won the coveted NBA title. The 2016 Champions proved that odds can be overcome and challenges can be conquered.

In the emotional post-game interviews with reporters, LeBron James acknowledged the great struggle he and his teammates had to overcome. It was a deeply fulfilling night for the Cavaliers’ star player who had made it his goal to bring the championship home to Cleveland ever since his return from a four-year stint with the Miami Heat.

Fans in Cleveland had voiced their displeasure with LeBron when he left Cleveland in 2010 to play in Miami. They had felt betrayed and abandoned, and their team suffered its worst seasons without James’ skills and leadership. But, on last Sunday night, all was forgiven as delirious fans celebrated the win in the streets of Cleveland, and hailed their hero, Lebron James.

In 1 Samuel 30, David and his men returned to their campsite in Ziklag to find it a smoldering ash heap, the result of a sneak attack by the Amalekites. Further compounding their distress was the fact that their wives and children had been taken captive by the enemy. The emotional trauma of the moment overwhelmed the tough fighting men who cried until they had no more power to weep. Frustration soon gave way to anger as they then contemplated stoning their leader, David, who had become the object of their blame. David somehow found the strength to encourage himself and inspired his men to pursue the enemy in the process.

There are powerful life lessons in both the Biblical account of David and his men, and in the championship quest of LeBron James and his teammates:

1) Never make a permanent decision in a temporary situation. Down 3-1 in the finals, LeBron could have concluded that the odds were too great and the championship run was over. David could have given in to his despair and considered suicide when his men turned against him.

2) There are times when the help you need lies deep inside of you. When you are playing on your opponent’s home court and thousands of fans are screaming and booing to distract you, it takes incredible focus and internal fortitude to stay true to your game. David was able to retreat from the unnerving sounds of mutiny around him and seek solace and encouragement in spiritual communion with God.

3) Acknowledge God’s presence and power at work in your life. LeBron opined that God (the man upstairs) must have intended for the Cavaliers to take the hard road to the championship. David looked to God for direction concerning a mission of recovery and was inspired to pursue.

4) Setbacks can turn into comebacks. The Cavaliers’ heroic effort paid off, winning them the championship and great respect in the world of sports. David eventually caught up with the Amalekites, recovered the kidnapped families and returned with the spoils of war.

May you and I find the courage to face our obstacles, confident that we can overcome them, and may God enable us to do, with His aid, what we cannot do on our own.

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: “Love your fellow as yourself”

Posted on 16 June 2016 by LeslieM

This week, we celebrated the Jewish Holiday of Shavuot. On Shavuos, G-d gave the Jewish people his Torah.

A gentile once came before Shammai and said: “Convert me to Judaism, on the stipulation that you teach me the entire Torah as I stand on one leg.” Shammai drove him off with the builder’s measuring stick in his hand. [The Talmudic sage Shammai was a builder by profession.]

He then came before Hillel, who converted him. Said Hillel to him: “What is hateful to you, do not do to your fellow. This is the entire Torah. The rest is commentary — go and learn.”

Hillel and Shammai were two leading rabbis of the early 1st century BCE. They lived in Jerusalem during the time of King Herod and the Roman Emperor Augustus, in the turbulent and bloody century before the destruction of the Second Temple in 70 CE. It is in this conversation that Hillel sums up all of Torah — to treat another person like you would like to be treated. Imagine, if each of us would live that way!

One century later, Rabbi Akiva would comment on the verse “Love your fellow as yourself.” This is a cardinal principle in the Torah. As we once again receive the Torah on Shavuos 2016, this remains the summary of all of Torah: Treat the other like you wish to be treated.

Judaism is a religion of words. G-d created the natural world with words. We create, and sometimes destroy, the social world with words. That is one reason why Judaism has so strong an ethic of speech. The other reason, surely, is its concern to protect human dignity.

Psychological injury may be no less harmful and sometimes is even more harmful than physical injury. Hence the rule: never humiliate, never put to shame, never take refuge in the excuse that they were only words, that no physical harm was done.

In 2008, world renowned composer Benjamin Zander gave a TED Talk called “The Transformative Power of Classical Music.” This is how he ended his talk: What we say really makes a difference. The words that come out of our mouth really do matter. I learned this from a woman who survived Auschwitz, one of the rare survivors. She went to Auschwitz when she was 15 years old. And her brother was eight, and the parents were lost. And she told me this.

She said, “We were in the train going to Auschwitz, and I looked down and saw my brother’s shoes were missing. I said, ‘Why are you so stupid? Can’t you keep your things together for goodness’ sake?’ the way an elder sister might speak to a younger brother.”

Unfortunately, it was the last thing she ever said to him, because she never saw him again. He did not survive. And, so, when she came out of Auschwitz, she made a vow.

She said, “I walked out of Auschwitz into life and I made a vow. And the vow was, ‘I will never say anything that couldn’t stand as the last thing I ever say.’”

Now, can we do that? No. But it is a possibility to live into. Never ever embarrass someone — not a child, not even an adult, not your spouse, not your child, nor a stranger.

Rabbi Tzvi Dechter is the Director of Chabad of North Broward Beaches. New location soon! For all upcoming events, please visit www.JewishLHP.com.

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CLERGY CORNER: Care a little more

Posted on 09 June 2016 by LeslieM

I’ve heard that social media is good and bad. Unfortunately, both are an oversimplification, void of a deeper understanding (as I would argue that social media has both “good” and “bad” qualities — key word, qualities).

One of the “bad” qualities is what researchers have determined about stories in our social media newsfeed, how they carry equal weight. Everything shares the proverbial front page. Couple that with the saturation of tragedies posted, desensitizing us to their weightiness, and no wonder silly cat videos go viral. The “bad” qualities have led us straight into being overwhelmed, jaded and complacent … case-and-point, me.

Last week, while scrolling through my Facebook newsfeed, I came across a picture of a young boy lying in a hospital bed connected to monitoring equipment. The tag line asked for prayer. I started to pray. I wish I could say that I rolled out of bed and dropped to my knees. Or that I at least prayed something more meaningful than, “Lord, be with this young boy; heal him.” But I didn’t. And it was then and there that the Holy Spirit convicted me. I asked God to lead me in what I should pray. What flashed through my mind next was probably one of the most authentic prayers I’ve ever uttered. “Lord, I wish I cared more.”

The truth: I was going through the motions — knocking out my obligatory prayer. I wanted to sleep. But God, after His conviction, prompted me to continue to aimlessly scroll through my newsfeed. He knew that just a few posts away was the same boy, except this time, the picture included detailed instructions how to pray. God is good and I prayed — for real.

While the main plot was that of the young boy — whose surgery went well — the side story included my growth. I decided from that day forward I would commit to caring more. Philippians 2:4 reads, “Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too” and Romans 12:10 says, “Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honoring each other.” I want to take this wisdom to heart as I live the command of John 13:34-35 to “[love] each other [just] as [Christ has] loved you,” so that “[your] love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.

Did you know that the average age for children being recruited for prostitution is 13 years old, which Peter Haas, in his book Broken Escalators: Funny and Frightful Lessons about Moth Eating and Moving to the Next Level, reports that these children who are coerced or trafficked comprise nearly 20 percent of Internet porn. And just how much cash is spent on pornographic material daily? Haas confirms that among China, the U.S., Japan and South Korea, a whopping $236 million is consumed … per day. What else happens per day? Haas continues, 21,000 children under 5 years old die from poverty-related illnesses. Toss in racism, terrorism, corruption you name it, and it can be overwhelming living in a world that has succumbed to sin.

If you’re like me, you will want to do something. You will want to care more. I love what Benjamin Kerns writes about righting injustices in his book From the Pen to the Palace: A Youth Ministry Evangelism and Discipleship Strategy For a Post-Christian Culture; he calls us to “[leverage] our power for the benefit of others.” We see this modeled by Christ in how He cared, how He loved. Eugene Cho writes in Overrated: Are We More in Love with the Idea of Changing the World than Actually Changing the World? whether it was the widow, the leper, the adulterer, the prostitute, the marginalized, the oppressed, the forgotten, the rich, the poor, the hurting, the joyful, (you name it), Jesus lived justly and He calls us to follow suit: to love as He loves … to care more.

Join me and, together, let us be the Church — one that loves others by caring more than just in thought, but in deed.

C.J. Wetzler is the NextGen pastor at First Baptist Church of Deerfield Beach. Before transitioning into full-time ministry, CJ was a commercial airline captain and high school leadership and science teacher. For questions or comments he can be reached at cj@deerfieldfirst.com.

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CLERGY CORNER: Let your music soar

Posted on 02 June 2016 by LeslieM

The story is told of a king who decided to reward a peasant who had done him a great service. “Shall I give him a sack of gold? A bag of pearls?” thought the king. “But these mean virtually nothing to me. I want, for once, to truly give something – something that I will miss, a gift that constitutes a sacrifice for me.”

Now this king had a nightingale who sang the sweetest songs a human ear had ever heard. He treasured the nightingale over all else and found life unbearable without it. So he summoned the peasant to his palace and gave him the bird. “This,” said the king, “is in appreciation for your loyalty and devotion.”

Thank you, Your Majesty,” said the peasant, and took the royal gift to his humble home.

A while later, the king was passing through the peasant’s village and commanded his coachman to halt at the peasant’s door.

How are you enjoying my gift?” he inquired of his beloved subject.

The truth to tell, Your Majesty,” said the peasant, “the bird’s meat was quite tough – all but inedible, in fact. But I cooked it with lots of potatoes, and it gave the stew an interesting flavor.”

Is this freedom?

People often ask, “Why does Judaism prohibit me from doing whatever I want? Why can’t we just be free, liberated and individualistic? Why are there so many laws, instructions and rituals in Judaism that govern every aspect of one’s life, from the way we eat to the way we marry? Would it not have been nice if the opening of the Ten Commandments would have read like this: ‘I am the Lord your G-d who has taken you out of Egypt in order to set you free. Now, young women and men, listen ye to my words! You can do whatever you want, wherever you want, however you want, with whomever you want, as long as you don’t hurt another person. I honor your individual rights to choose your own lifestyle and behavior, without anybody governing your decisions. Conform not to any standard; just live it up!’”

Is this why we left the house of bondage in Egypt – to become slaves to the Almighty?

The Sages saw it otherwise. “There is no free man, except for he who occupies himself with the study of Torah” (Ethics of the Fathers, 6:2.) Really? If anything, it is exactly the other way around: as long as you don’t learn Torah, you are free to engage in so many activities, the options are open. Once you embrace Torah, there goes your freedom … Torah mixes into everything … A life that is faithful to the precepts of the Torah is indeed greatly “constricted” and “confined.”

Scattering the energy

On the face of it, the Jewish code of behavior is a limiting factor, something that detracts from the great variety of possibilities that life has to offer. In truth, however, the very opposite is the case.

A life without parameters is a life that quickly dissipates into the cosmic heterogeneity in which we exist, draining it of all power and impact. When we follow our instincts, habits, cravings and appetites without any restrictions, our inner momentum, focus and depth are weakened. When we allow ourselves the freedom to go in every direction, when there are no boundaries or limitations and we are free to do everything and anything – our light scatters all over the place and we never realize our ultimate power and potential. Our energies are squandered, our richness is compromised, our creativity silenced and our brightness dulled.

Conversely, when we “restrict” the light, and do now allow it to flow anywhere and everywhere, we fine-tune our inner creativity, we cultivate our power, we become the most powerful people we can become, we access all of our momentum and we can vaporize even steel …

It is like the chords of a violin which must be tied down to allow the music to play. Torah and Halacha (law) do not come to tie us down, but rather to allow our music to soar.

The Baal Shem Tov teaches that the word Halacha is the acronym of “let the whole earth sing to G-d.” What is meat-and-potatoes for one person is a nightingale for another person, capable of producing the most beautiful music in the world.

Shavuot is the Holiday in which G-d gave the Torah to the Jewish people 3,328 years ago. This year, we celebrate Shavuot on June 12 and 13.

Rabbi Tzvi Dechter is the Director of Chabad of North Broward Beaches. New location soon! For all upcoming events, please visit www.JewishLHP.com.

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CLERGY CORNER: The power of words

Posted on 26 May 2016 by LeslieM

This election cycle has produced an ongoing war of words between opposing candidates. And while it is not a new phenomenon in the contest to attain a political office, the growth of Twitter and other social media platforms has increased the exposure that candidates and their words normally receive. In this season, the demeaning and destructive tone of political rhetoric has resounded among both of the dominant parties of this country. Many are beginning to lament that what ought to be a contest of ideas has degraded to carefully crafted attacks intended to destroy one’s opponent.

In his observation of human life and behavior, King Solomon concluded that “death and life are in the power of the tongue” (Proverbs 18:21). There is a power inherent in words to set or change the course of a person’s life and destiny. Our earliest awareness of this is during childhood, when kind words spoken to us make us feel good about ourselves whereas harsh words create hurt, fear, or sadness. The old expression “sticks and stones may break my bones but names can never harm me” was not true at all. Name calling, especially among children and the emotionally fragile, can inflict grievous psychological and spiritual injury. Consider the effect that bullying has on young people who felt trapped, and who gave in to despair.

We must be careful to monitor what we say in conversation with each other. Even as adults we are not immune to the effects of positive or negative discourse. An ill-timed word can quickly create an argument, but a well-placed word can just as soon quiet a verbal tempest. What we say is important, and how we say it is even more so. Our thought life is affected primarily by the words that we hear or read throughout our lives, and we communicate chiefly through our speech and conversations. How much easier would it be for us to live together if we were more encouraging, helpful, and kind with our words?

Jesus taught that we will be called into account for the things that we say. In Matthew 12:36-37 He stated, “But I say to you that for every idle word men may speak, they will give account of it in the day of judgment. For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.”

It is true that the intense emotions of our particular circumstances can often be the stimulus for hasty speech and unplanned outbursts, but a well-managed demeanor is a characteristic of mature individuals. Constantly apologizing for words that were spoken can be indicative of a problem that one should seek help in correcting. Those who excuse their harsh and critical language may discover that their words will return to haunt them one day.

Perhaps this is why King David demonstrated an awareness of the power of words in some of his psalms. He advised, “Keep your tongue from evil and your lips from speaking lies” in Psalm 34:13. And he prayed that God would approve of his conversations in Psalm 19:14, “May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer.” That sounds like good practice and a good petition for all of us to mimic and employ in our interaction with each other. Choose your words carefully for they have power to bring about both good and bad.

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: Give me some passion

Posted on 19 May 2016 by LeslieM

Joshua 24:2 And Joshua said unto all the people: “Thus said the LORD, the God of Israel: Your fathers dwelt of old time beyond the River, even Terah, the father of Abraham, and the father of Nahor; and they served other gods.”

Why does Joshua begin admonishing the people with the observation of how morally degraded our ancestors were? Besides, which of our ancestors worshiped idols? Abraham smashed the idols and embraced Monotheism! True, it took Abraham some time until he discovered that the idols were futile. But why would we make mention of that at this point?

The answer is powerful. Joshua is not simply describing our disgraceful past, “In the beginning our fathers served idols; but now the Omnipresent One has brought us close to His service.” Rather, Joshua is explaining why indeed G-d brought us close to His service. “In the beginning our fathers served idols”— and that is why “now the Omnipresent One has brought us close to His service.” Had our fathers not worshiped idols, G-d could have never brought us close to Him.

What indeed was the difference between our grandfather Terach and our father Abraham? If Abraham rationally realized that the statutes of his father were nothing but lifeless, stone images, and that the universe must have a transcendental designer and creator, why could his father not understand this?

The foundations of Judaism do not require blind faith. They are rational. To assume that a house was built by contractor, not by mistake as a result of an avalanche randomly combining the bricks, is not irrational. To accept that an infinite and brilliant world has a designer who is mindful is rational. To accept that quintillions of atoms, structured in a way to create all the matter around us, were organized by intent is not foolish. To observe billions of units of DNA embedded in a single cell of a tiny organism and assume someone organized them is as irrational as thinking that a computer program consisting of three billion organized codes was randomly compiled by error. And remember, DNA does not create a computer program; it is the source of life.

If so, why is it that some are like Abraham — they will reject the deities of the time and embrace truth, while others will be like Terach, continue to stick to old, comfortable irrational notions?

The answer is “In the beginning our fathers served idols”— and that is why “now the Omnipresent One has brought us close to His service.” Abraham worshipped idols! That is the key. He took faith seriously. He craved to know the truth. He was idealistically searching to find what is at the core of life. He served idols with passion, and deep commitment, believing that they constitute the answer to the question of life.

His father Terach was not searching for truth, only for comfort. The god statues provided a fine business and he would not be disturbed by philosophical questions.

Do you care for truth or not? That makes all the difference. Our forefathers worshipped idols. They passionately believed this was “it.” When they found the real G-d, they channeled their passion toward truth.

But if you are a person who does not worship anybody or anything — only your own needs and comforts at any moment, then even if you understand the truth about the universe, it makes little difference.

Rabbi Tzvi Dechter is the Director of Chabad of North Broward Beaches. New location coming soon. For all upcoming events please visit www.JewishLHP.com.

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CLERGY CORNER: The way a child should go

Posted on 12 May 2016 by LeslieM

I dare say that my role as a pastor for students and their families is considerably more challenging than my previous one as an airline captain. That’s not to downplay the demands of the airline profession — trust me, it’s intense. It’s just that when you find yourself embedded in the clouds, with no land in sight, the instrumentation, airport technology and air traffic control perform exactly as they’re designed to: guiding the plane safely, under zero visibility, to the runway. And, let me tell you, when you break out of the cloud deck at 50 ft. above the runway while hauling toward the Earth at roughly 150 miles per hour, it’s exhilarating … but, predictable … quite the opposite from children and teens.

There is the messy business of being called to “Train up a child in the way [they] should go” so that when they are older, “[they] will not depart from itProverbs 22:6. That begs the question: In which way should they go?

Dr. Seuss has a few suggestions, as do the authors of Nurture Shock, Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman. They set out to identify a list of “supertraits” hoping children with a firm grasp of “gratitude, honesty, empathy [and] fairness” would become “good children” in which problems such as “stealing, feeling bored or distressed, excluding others, early sexual activity and succumbing to peer pressure” would essentially “bounce off them just as easily as bullets bounced off Superman.” What they discovered though, through copious amounts of research, is that these “supertraits” can’t be relied upon to act as “moral Kevlar.”

In this absence of a predictable outcome, control has become our new idol. In the documentary Trophy Kids, one parent of a 9-year-old shares his belief about the goal of parenting: “Get [your] kid to buy into your dream and to your ambition, that’s the key.” Another parent with twin 14-year-old boys informed them that their identity is in playing tennis, and that her will for them, for which she’s made a covenant with God on their behalf, is that they become tennis superstars.

Maybe the aforementioned parents teeter on the extreme, but a new generation of controlling parents has materialized called “Helicopter Parents.” Dr. Tim Elmore in his book Generation iY: Our Last Chance to Save Their Future says this of Helicopter Parents: “These hovering ‘helicopters’ can be controlling and obsessive in their efforts to ensure that everything goes well for their children and that no negative incident affects their self-esteem or their prospects.” Little do these parents understand that, because of their actions, their child isn’t learning the ability to fail and persevere. The “hovering” parent is “[preparing] the path for the child instead of the child for the path.”

In Scripture, time and time again, God prepares the individual for the path, not the other way around. Take David for example. Battling Goliath wasn’t his first altercation. In 1 Samuel 17:33 we see that David “has been a warrior from his youth”— going all commando against lions and bears (“Oh my!” says every parent). Prior to the big match-up, Saul offered up his armor to David, which he declined, knowing it wasn’t needed. (How many times do we try to put our identity — that we rationalize as “armor” or “protection”— on the children under our care?) Later, we see that David “ran quickly toward the battle…1 Samuel 17:48, signifying his eagerness and trust in the Lord, slinging the stone, which had the same take-down force of a .45 caliber pistol, into the forehead of the towering infantryman armed with a spear — talk about your classic bringing a knife to a gun fight — “… thus David prevailed over the Philistine1 Samuel 17:50.

In David’s story, we see God’s design for the way a child should go — to prevail. They are to be equipped through undergoing challenging experiences, yes, struggles that reveal a true relationship with their Father, creating in them a secure understanding of their identity — who God has ordained them to become. From there, we can trust (in God) that they will eagerly take up their calling and accomplish — prevail in — His work, not ours.

C.J. Wetzler is the NextGen pastor at First Baptist Church of Deerfield Beach. Before transitioning into full-time ministry, CJ was a commercial airline captain and high school leadership and science teacher. For questions or comments, he can be reached at cj@deerfieldfirst.com.

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