| Clergy Corner

CLERGY CORNER: How did the Mona Lisa become the most famous painting?

Posted on 05 October 2017 by LeslieM

Why is the Mona Lisa the most famous painting in the world? Her enigmatic smile? The mystery surrounding her identity? The fact she was painted by Renaissance pin-up boy Leonardo da Vinci? Sure, all of these things helped boost the popularity of the 16th century masterpiece. But what really catapulted the small, unassuming portrait to international stardom was a daring burglary over 100 years ago.

When Italian handyman Vincenzo Peruggia, who worked as a handy man for the museum, stole the Mona Lisa from the Louvre museum in Paris, in August 1911, he never could have guessed her absence would be the very thing that made her the most recognizable painting on the planet.

Suddenly, images of the artwork were splashed across international newspapers, as the two-year police hunt hit dead-end after dead-end.

It wasn’t until December, 1913, two years after the theft, that Peruggia was finally caught and the Mona Lisa recovered, becoming the best known painting.

It is fascinating to note that when the museum reopened, after being closed for a week following the larceny, throngs of people came to stare at the spot where the Mona Lisa had been. In fact, during those two years, more people came to see the vacant spot, than came to see the Mona Lisa before it was stolen all the years before!

Today, she is the jewel in the Louvre’s crown, helping attract around 10 million visitors to the Paris museum annually.

Had Peruggia instead slipped another artwork under his cloak that fateful day, it could have been a very different story.

If a different one of Leonardo’s works had been stolen, then that would have been the most famous work in the world — not the Mona Lisa,” said Noah Charney, professor of art history and author of The Thefts of the Mona Lisa.“There was nothing that really distinguished it per se, other than it was a very good work by a very famous artist — that’s until it was stolen,” he added. “The theft is what really skyrocketed its appeal and made it a household name.”

So, in a very funny way, the best thing that could ever happen for the Mona Lisa was that it was stolen! “Absence makes the heart grow fonder.” Without knowing it, the thief of this painting, trying to hurt the Louvre and restore dignity back to Italy, did her the greatest favor and transformed Mona Lisa into the legend it is.

Friend, you have just grasped the essence and the beauty of Yom Kippur. Each of our souls is a beautiful piece of art — even more beautiful than the Mona Lisa. Each of our lives, carved in the image of the Divine, is unique, dignified and extraordinary.

But we often allow our “art” to get stolen. We allow our souls, our goodness, our holiness, our purity, our inner power to be compromised, to go under cover and become absent from our lives. We search and we search and it is so hard to reclaim!

Yet, if we persist, as we rediscover our inner piece of art, its value becomes infinitely more precious — even more than before the theft! It is precisely due to our challenges, failures, breakdowns, mistakes and frustrations that when our goodness, our inner power, our Neshamah- Soul is recovered through repentance, it is so much more powerful, bright, and brilliant!  

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: Preparing for the storm

Posted on 28 September 2017 by LeslieM

Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria have demonstrated why we must take every precaution whenever a storm threatens. We had scarcely come to terms with the devastating impact of Harvey on areas of Texas and Louisiana, when meteorologists began informing us that another, potentially more powerful hurricane was forging a path towards South Florida. Scenes of wind battered homes, downed powerlines, rising flood waters and boats flung onto shore struck fear in many hearts. State and local officials began warning residents to evacuate the most vulnerable areas, to stock up on water and other supplies, and to secure their properties from possible damage.

Almost immediately water disappeared from store shelves and gas stations were bombarded by long lines of cars. Home supply stores struggled to keep up with the demand for plywood, and contractors began working longer hours to accommodate calls for help in securing homes.

The level of preparation and response was tremendous. It is estimated that well over a million people heeded the advice to evacuate, and the clogged traffic on I-75 North and the Turnpike gave evidence to the concern of the public. There were even power and utility companies from other states making preparation to aid Florida once the storm had passed.

Thankfully, for the most part, Florida avoided the worst of Irma’s fury. Any loss of life is always regrettable, and the destruction in the Keys was heartbreaking to observe. The storm is gone, however, and there is time now to reflect and put things into perspective even as we rebuild, resume and restore. Storms of nature, particularly hurricanes, can be forecast, but they are largely unpredictable. No one can say for certain what path they will take, and what intensity they will arrive with. All we can do, as our governor repeatedly warned, is to expect the best but prepare for the worst. Storms of life (adversity, setback or heartbreak) are also unavoidable and unpredictable, but we should equally take precautions to minimize their impact as well.

While it is easy to secure windows with plywood and shutters, our hearts and emotions cannot be ‘covered’ in the same way. A hard heart and disconnected attitude are antithetical to the normative human experience. We need something more akin to hurricane-impact windows and doors that negate the need to cover-up during an approaching storm. Able to withstand powerful wind forces, they are made to protect while offering the intended function of allowing light in and visibility out.

How does one reinforce the heart and emotions to be able to survive the storms of life? Take time to cultivate and appreciate the relationships that matter most in your life. A devoted spouse, loving family and committed friends are indispensable aids to staying grounded during trying times. A fine house, fancy car, and even money, are unable to comfort the anguish of a bruised spirit. We were designed to fellowship with others and we will need them when the storms come. Proverbs 17:17 tells us, “A friend loveth at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.”

Faith is also an invaluable asset to the strength of the heart and mind. Despite our knowledge and understanding, there are still things beyond our comprehension and control. Believers have settled on the fact that there is someone greater than ourselves, who holds our lives in His hands. It is comforting to put your trust in a God you cannot see but whose presence you can feel. “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore, will not we fear, though the earth be removed and carried into the midst of the sea; though the waters therefore roar and be troubled, though the mountains shake with the swelling thereof… The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge.” With this kind of protection in place we can survive the storms of life.

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: Finding our strength

Posted on 21 September 2017 by LeslieM

First and foremost, my prayers are with our whole community as we recover from Hurricane Irma. This ordeal has brought the community together and, together, we will get through this. I think that it is safe to say, it could have been worse and we should be grateful that the projections that we feared did not come to full fruition. That being said, there was a lot of loss. And while we pray prayers of gratitude, we also pray for those who lost a lot, including our neighbors who took the hit directly in the Florida Keys, the Everglades and the Naples area [and the Caribbean and elsewhere].

I also want to say to all of the first responders, emergency workers, those working to restore power, news reporters, or anyone else who worked around the clock to and through the storm, thank you. Hurricanes remind us of who the real heroes are and God used these brave men and women to keep us safe through the worst part of the storm. God bless you and the work you do.

I have served 21 of my 23 years of ministry in Florida and I have seen my share of hurricanes and tropical storms. I have to say, this one had me scared more than any. I can say that hurricanes have the tendency to put things in perspective. It takes a mortal threat to realize that some things we deem as important really are not that important and the things that are important, like life, family and friends, cannot be replaced. We know the difference between a problem and a nuisance. It is a problem to lose your home; it is a nuisance to lose your cable.

I wish I could say that my first hurricane put things in perspective for me and they have remained their ever since. But when the storm passes, the dust settles, the branches and debris are cleared away and the power comes back on, things go back to normal. After normal comes, comfort follows, as well as contentment. It doesn’t take long before one finds oneself taking things for granted.

The night I went to bed and the power was out, I prayed to God a prayer that I didn’t intend to sound like I was bargaining with God. In hindsight, I think I did. But it went something like this: “God, if you spare the life of my family and my home, I will be eternally grateful and never forget.” The hurricane passed, the power came back on, the shower was warm, the air conditioning was cool, water was cold, coffee was hot and all was looking good. The gratitude was abundant, just not eternal.

First came normal, then came comfort followed by contentment. And then the old habit of taking things for granted set in. One of my children cried out in anguish: “Where is the Wifi?” Really? You just survived a hurricane and you are complaining about Wifi? And then I turned on the television which I had set to record a football game playing on a network not preempted by hurricane coverage. No electricity, no cable, no DVR, no football. And then I cried out in anguish: “I cannot watch the football game.” Really, I just survived a hurricane and I was complaining about my DVR?

I wish I could say I sustained my gratitude for a good solid week, but I found myself in that place where I was prior to the hurricane within a couple hours of getting power back. Yes, I am a person of faith, but an imperfect person of imperfect faith. And the hurricane taught me that lesson as well.

Now, we face the potential of other storms. We simply do not know what our near future is going to be when it comes to weather. All the spaghetti models in the world won’t tell us exactly what the future has in store for us. At best, we can make an educated guess. But we do know where we can find our strength to get through to the other side of the coming storm. Our strength comes with our faith in 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: Our collective prayer for the world

Posted on 14 September 2017 by LeslieM

As I write this, it’s 4:05 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 8, 2017, and I am hunkered down in my office patiently awaiting Hurricane Irma — stocked with Voltage soda and plenty of candy. This article releases after Irma will have passed, undoubtedly leaving a path of destruction and many asking why? Why God? Why Irma? Why Harvey? Why an earthquake off the coast of Mexico? Why the wildfires in Montana and LA [and Oregon]? Why the flooding in South Asia? Why?

Though we may not be able to fully understand the why ourselves, I do know our God is sovereign — fully in control. Still, naturally, we seek answers; yet it was the apostle Paul, a follower of Jesus, in his letter to the Romans, that writes, “How impossible it is for us to understand His decisions and His ways. For who can know the Lord’s thoughts?” Romans 11:33-34 NLT). So what can we do? James, the brother of Jesus, writes, “The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results” (James 5:16 NLT). So let us “[not] worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what [we] need, and thank Him for all He has done. Then [we] will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand” (Philippians 4:6-7 NLT)

With that said, join me in praying in one accord, without ceasing (1 Thessalonians 5:17), the following:

Dear Lord, we first and foremost approach You in thanksgiving. We thank You for Your creation: the land and the seas; the sun that shines so brightly that we need specially approved glasses to gaze upon it. We thank You for salvation through Your Son Jesus — for His sacrifice on the cross that set us free from the punishment of our sins. We thank You for Your Word and the awe-inspiring ways You reveal Yourself to us. You are the Alpha and the Omega; the Beginning and the End. You are our Father in Heaven and we come before you with heavy hearts. God, to those who have experienced the loss of a loved one, beloved pet and/or property, we ask for Your peace and comfort to overflow upon them. Allow them to feel Your presence physically, but also recognize Your care and concern for them through the local body of believers co-laboring alongside them in the restoration efforts.

Father, continue to keep watch over the first responders: the military, police, fire/EMS, medical professionals, power company linemen, disaster relief staff/volunteers and anyone assisting in the relief efforts. We honor them for their sacrifice — physical, mental and financial, as they put their life on the line, and on hold, to serve others. We also pray for and give thanks for those who were unable to physically be present during a global relief event but donated money and/or resources.

Lord, we also pray for the local governments. Let them feel supported by their constituency and not grow weary in the completion of their duties. Remind them that You alone have established them in their role for such a time and place as this (Romans 13:1 NLT); and that they have access to Your power, wisdom and knowledge.

Most High, we also give thanks for and pray for the many churches, corporations and small businesses that have rallied together to provide relief such as shelter, food and other necessities that ensure safety and reestablishes communication between loved ones. Allow the private sector to know our gratitude for their sacrifice, assistance and sense of obligation to the world at large.

Lastly, we pray that through all that has occurred, and is still ongoing that the world will, through our unity, experience Your presence and recognize that you sent us — the Body of Christ (John 17:23 NLT), and that no trouble or calamity, persecution, hunger or danger — not even death; nothing in all creation, which includes natural disasters — can separate them from Christ’s love. “No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is [theirs] through Christ…” (Romans 8:31-39 NLT). To You be the glory. Amen.

C.J. Wetzler is the NextGen pastor at The Church at 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@dfb.church.

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CLERGY CORNER: Bill Gates & the Shabbos

Posted on 07 September 2017 by LeslieM

Kivi Bernard, a jeweler living in Atlanta, is an international motivational speaker. The author of the internationally acclaimed business book: Leopardology – The Hunt For Profit In Tough Global Economy, is a frequent popular speaker for large corporate events. He is also an observant and Chassidic Jew.

Some time ago, Microsoft, invited him to present a keynote address at their senior conference. This was a conference for senior executives from all over the world, and a major part of it focused on Bernard’s theories presented in his Leaopardology.

Kivi looked at the date and said he was sorry, but he would not be able to attend. You see the date they set for him was on the Shabbat, and the presentation would require the usage of electronic devices, power points, videos, mics, recordings, etc. all thing which he could not do on the Shabbat.

A very senior Microsoft executive decided to resolve the issue quite simply by offering Bernhard almost double his speaking fee. He explained that the meeting had been set some year and half in advance and it could not be changed at this point.

Kivi refused. He said he was sorry; he would not speak on the Shabbat.

Microsoft was convinced that it was an issue of money, so they phoned back and offered him even more money. At some point they were ready to pay him an astronomical fee, which would be a half a year salary for some of us. Tempting it was, Kivi knew that was his test. This is where his Jewishness was being tested. This is where his integrity as a G-d fearing Jew was being challenged. This is where he stood at the end of a chain of 4000 years of ancestors who celebrated Shabbat, and he would have to make his own decision now. And he did.

He explained to Mircosoft, that it did not have to do with money. He was not declining because he wanted more money; he was declining because G-d told the Jewish people to observe Shabbat, as one day which is beyond money, beyond career, beyond finances, beyond promotions. It was a day of intimacy with G-d, and with your loved ones.

They phoned him back and said that if that was the case, they would reschedule the entire conference to Sunday. He said that would work and the original price would work too.

Indeed, the Sunday conference opened with a keynote address by Kivi Bernard.

A few weeks later, he gets a call. It was the same senior Microsoft executive who tried to negotiate with him. He told Kivi that subsequent to the conference he had an occasion to join Bill Gates on his private jet where this particular event came up for discussion. The Microsoft executive mentioned the unusual experience of having to reschedule the entire conference for Microsoft in order to accommodate “a Jew’s observance of the Sabbath.”

Bill Gates remarked: I am a person who can buy anything I want. From any skyscraper to any company under the sun. There is nothing I can’t purchase for money. I can buy people. I can buy patents. I can buy talent. I can buy genius. But there are some things that money cannot buy. One of them is the Sabbath! It is not up for sale.

Kivi shared the story and said that it was Bill Gates who allowed this Chassidic Jew to grasp the value and preciousness of what he has done. Gates made him realize how meaningful his sacrifice really was. Bill Gates made him realize how rich he really was, when he owned something that money could not buy.

Vision

It is a question we ought to ask ourselves on Rosh Hashanah. Do I own something that money can’t buy or even define? What is it? Do I have something in my life that I am ready to make sacrifices for? 

Helen Keller (1880-1968), who could not hear or see, transformed an entire nation when she graduated with honors from college. She is still a source of inspiration for millions. She was once asked, “How does it feel not to have eyesight?” She responded:

It is a lot worse if you have eyesight but you lack vision…”

This Rosh Hashanah – Jewish New Year, we need to develop vision. A vision of a nobler, higher, deeper self, which we can only discover through sacrifice, loyalty, devotion, transcendence, humility and lots of courage. We ought not to sell ourselves for cheap; we are capable of developing a moral vocabulary, where we determine the value of a certain behavior not based on comfort or success, but based on the inner music of our soul and convictions of truth, depth, holiness, Torah, Mitzvos and our relationship with G-d.

Shanah Tovah! Happy New Year!

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

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CLERGY CORNER: Confessions of a Youth Pastor: Part 2

Posted on 30 August 2017 by LeslieM

In part one, I shared why the days of just “playing games with the youth” have ended. If you missed the article or need a refresher, I recommend reviewing it online at www.observernewspaperonline.com. In this second part, I’ll address how parents and guardians, the primary disciple-makers in leading their children to become fully devoted followers of Christ, can effectively partner with youth pastors through the art of quitting.

Jack Klumpenhower, author of Show Them Jesus: Teaching the Gospel to Kids, writes, “We’ve been dispensing good advice instead of the Good News,” which is to say the cultural narrative over the Biblical narrative: be happy, healthy and moral, be a good person.

Live a good life and things will go well for you. Find the right spiritual resources and you’ll be blessed. Ask Jesus into your heart and you’ll be saved,” says Klumpenhower, who added that, however, “whatever they learned about Jesus did really change them. They never saw Him so strikingly that He became their one, overriding hope and greatest love, never convinced that Jesus is better — a zillion times better, than anything else.”

And so, Klumpenhower explains that “a frightening number of kids are growing up in churches and Christian homes without ever being captured by the Gospel of Jesus.” 

As a youth pastor, not a pastor in training, but a real pastor with a specific calling to develop the spiritual lives of students, I ask parents and guardians to quit doing the following:

Quit introducing false idols. I knew of a student that was being faithfully mentored and on track to be a leader within his youth ministry. However, for his 16th birthday he was gifted an expensive and trendy vehicle that quickly became the source of his identity. It became his idol. He eventually left the church for worldly pursuits. Parents and guardians, this isn’t to say you can’t provide for your child, but a reminder that anything elevated above God — even family — is an idol. I know you may feel ignored at times, but your children are adopting the things you value. It’s why, for example, skipping church consistently for youth sports is a big deal: everything speaks. Your child needs some iron-sharpening-iron friends and those relationships won’t develop when there are seasons of church hiatuses for an idol.

Quit playing God. While I recognize the paternal instinct to guide and protect one’s child, many parents and guardians are doing so to the detriment of their child: meeting their child’s every need and every want. There is a beautiful thing that happens when we realize that we are wholly dependent on God and that He alone is the one who will ultimately fulfill our needs — and then does! However, many parents are unwittingly removing their child’s need for a savior as they dawn their cape and rush in for the save. Next time your child has, let’s say a problem at school, instead of trying to solve the problem on your own, go to Scripture and prayer and allow God to drive the conversation.

Quit outsourcing discipleship. If I can be blatantly honest, the reason many homes introduce false idols and the parents or guardians assume the role of God is because they themselves are not a fully-devoted follower of Christ. And whether the parent or guardian recognizes it or not, they are making a disciple, another “mushy-middle,” lukewarm Christian seeking the cultural narrative of be moral over the Biblical narrative of be Christ’s. You can’t pass along to your child what you don’t have yourself and, with the ever increasing rise of secularism, a child seeking God (only when it’s convenient) will never be captured by the Gospel of Jesus.

Again, Dr. Jean M. Twenge believes we are “on the brink of the worst mental health crisis in decades,” and students are leaving the church in droves. To learn how to quit the aforementioned, feel free to contact me directly, because we, youth pastors, desperately seek to partner with you, the parent or guardian, in helping your child become a fully-devoted follower of Christ, and it’s an urgent plea.

C.J. Wetzler is the NextGen pastor at The Church at 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@dfb.church.

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CLERGY CORNER: Achieving the impossible

Posted on 24 August 2017 by LeslieM

The Cambridge English Dictionary defines an impossibility as something that cannot be expected to happen or exist. Similarly, the Oxford Dictionary regards the impossible as that which is not able to occur, exist, or be done. Outside of scientific or commonsense evidence to the contrary, much of our certainty regarding impossibilities stems from the fact that what we often identify as impossible has never been done. If it has never been done, seen, or heard of before, we consider it to be an impossibility. However, many of the modern conveniences we now enjoy were once considered impossible.

In the time of the horse and buggy, talk of a horseless carriage was deemed ridiculous. Men like Henry Ford did the impossible and today we have automobiles. Noted scientists once declared heavier-than-air flight an absurdity until the Wright brothers proved them wrong. In a bygone era, space travel was relegated to the arena of fantasy and imagination, but today we have men who have walked on the moon. In the field of athletics, no one had ever run a mile in four minutes or less, and it was thought impossible until Roger Bannister achieved the feat on May 6, 1954.

What is it that causes men to challenge the impossible? Why is it that some are dissatisfied with perceived limitations and seek to stretch the boundaries of the human experience? I would offer that it has something to do with the Biblical record of creation. Genesis chapter 1 reveals that man was created in the image of God. In creation, God displayed incredible power by speaking things into existence. When He created man, He breathed into him and imparted part of Himself. Consequently, while we lack the ability to produce anything on the same level as God, mankind has demonstrated remarkable creativity and imagination.

All of us possess the ability to dream, to imagine, to create, and to achieve the seemingly impossible. The mandate given to the first man and woman instructed them to be fruitful and multiply, and to have dominion over the earth and subdue it. That required creativity, ingenuity and innovation. Their passion and drive was passed on to their offspring, and, ultimately, to all of humanity. Every generation and epoch of human history has seen the display of the inherent ability of mankind to create, to perfect, and to surpass prior limitations.

What noble pursuit stirs your imagination and sparks your creativity? What persistent ideas of accomplishment keep finding their way into your thoughts. If it has never been done, why don’t you become the first? If it will be of benefit to others and inspire those around you, go for it. I would even suggest that some of our dreams and aspirations are inspired by God to stimulate the potential that He deposited into us at creation. It’s His way of beckoning us to attempt the impossible. As we consider the matter, we unleash our creativity. By exploring the possibilities, we forge a pathway to achievement and success.

The age of discovery and achievement is not behind us. Now is the time to stretch and to strive, to aspire and to accomplish. Break free of the limitations that have held you back mentally, physically and spiritually. Look to your creator for inspiration to be what He has purposed you to be: a fruitful, creative, productive expression of an almighty God. Begin with faith and walk with confidence and assurance that impossibilities can become possibilities. Remember the words of Jesus in Mark 9:23, “If you can believe, all things are possible to him who believes.”

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: Happy for you, but sad for me

Posted on 17 August 2017 by LeslieM

Jeremiah 29:11, “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord. Plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

As a clergyman, I discovered the “ambidextrous” nature of my profession. On one hand, I am a theologian, which is to say, I am an academician. When I fulfill this role, it is safe. I am in the cerebral realm and can distance myself, emotionally, from the subject at hand.

On the other hand, I am a pastor. As a pastor I make the abstract personal and find myself in the realm of the heart. This is the more vulnerable of the two realms because emotions are involved and I find I simply cannot distance myself from the subject at hand.

Usually, when I write these articles, I write from the safer of the two realms. I try to keep my writing professional as opposed to personal. And this is the safer of the two options, particularly when our readership is ecumenical.

Well, today, I simply cannot distance myself from my writing. As I write my article, I anticipate the end of this week when I bring my youngest child to college. I anticipate empty nest syndrome and I find myself, this week, caught up in the emotion. I realize I am not alone. And it is this realization that inspired me to write my article to all the moms and dads out there who are facing major life transitions this week. Whether you are sending your child to kindergarten, middle school, high school or college, the transition can be a challenge. And if you find yourself in this category, this one is for you.

There are things we say when we face life transitions. One of the most honest statements I have heard people mention is “I am happy for you but sad for me.” When your best friend moves to a new place because he or she got a promotion you might say this. When you speak at a loved one’s funeral, as a person of faith, acknowledging a better hereafter for our loved one but a difficult here and now for you, you might say this. And, when the father links arms with his daughter and walks down the aisle, he has a smile from ear to ear but tears are streaming from both eyes. As he faces the realization that his little girl is getting married, his expression says it all: “I am happy for you but sad for me.”

As a parent, we prepare our children for the day when they will leave home. We want our kids to succeed, to become independent, become everything God created them to be. As we nudge them out of the nest, we want them to spread their wings and fly. Until that day comes, we hang on to each moment and hold them as tight as we can never wanting to let go. And, yet, we must. When that day comes, we remind ourselves that it was for this moment that we worked so hard. Yet, selfishly perhaps, we hope that moment never comes. Rest assured, that moment will come. And when it does, we say: “I am happy for you but sad for me.”

It was difficult when my daughter Rachel went off to college. Fortunately, her little brother was home. It broke my heart the first time, but the realization that Nate was still home made it somewhat bearable. Now, that is no longer true. You think you can prepare yourself for these things emotionally, but I should know by now that emotions don’t work that way. I can say, with all sincerity, that I am happy for him but sad for me. My wife and I need to remind ourselves that this was the moment we worked for. He is ready and I know that his future is bright. But it doesn’t change the fact that I will miss him terribly.

Moms and dads, people of faith, whatever your faith may be, you are not alone. Being a dad has taught me many valuable lessons that have shaped my ministry. I have walked with many people through life transitions. I have experienced the emotions of hundreds of people, albeit from somewhat of a professional distance. Now, I find myself walking down the path many have walked before me. I cannot say: “I know how you are feeling.” But I can say: “I have a pretty good idea …” Feel free to call your clergy person and share what is on your heart and pray with him or her. You may be surprised to discover that your spiritual leader, too, may have taken your path and have a pretty good idea of how you are feeling.

But know this, you are in my prayers. And may God bless you and your children during this time of transition. You may be sad for yourself, but be happy for your child.

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: Confessions of a youth pastor: part 1

Posted on 10 August 2017 by LeslieM

It’s by no accident you’re reading this article. I pray that what I’m about to reveal to you expands your awareness of what’s happening in the youth culture, and also provides practical ways for you to cultivate a healthier relationship with your youth pastor. What follows is the secret confession of a youth pastor.

To start, know that accessibility to technology and the prevalence of information — real or fake — has significantly altered this thing we call student ministry. 

Young teens are sexting or filming themselves performing sexual acts, which they post to social media. They take polls asking their followers to vote on what “stupid s***,” they should do on Snapchat, like destroying property or pretending to have a mental illness. They play beer pong — at least the 12-year-olds substitute alcohol for Monster energy drinks, and, of course, they light things on fire. 

The older students self-inflate their status, hoping to feel more important as they strive to live up to society’s unrealistic athletic or academic expectations. 

In short, it’s the f-word, rebellion, confusion and rejection manifesting itself in the form of social media attention-grabbing. They are painfully attention-starved and insecure, and their new drug is follower engagement, “likes” and such.

It’s a new frontier. The days of “playing games with the youth” have ended. As a matter of fact, if I’m being honest, some days I’m with students from morning until evening, living in their new world, trying to help them navigate their wounds and baggage. It’s those days you might find me lying on the floor of my office, gathering the energy needed to drive home.

But that’s okay. Because it’s there, on the carpet where Domino’s icing dipping sauce has been thoroughly trampled into, that I’m reminded to be wholly dependent on God myself and that I’m not alone; I’m co-laboring with others to show these students Jesus. 

I say “co-labor,” because student ministry is a partnership. While the position of youth pastor may have once been to “babysit” the youth while the adults do the “real” ministry, I can assure you, student ministry is real ministry and needs to be connected to the adult congregation.

Studies show that students who experience intergenerational worship are significantly less likely to “graduate” from their faith and walk away from God after high school, as they feel connected to a local church body that continues to love and support them even while away from home.

The reality is that this is a generation crying out for help, but has no idea how to receive and accept the help when it arrives: imagine a drowning victim trying to swim away from the responding lifeguard. 

Paul writes in his letter to the Romans to not “copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think” (Romans 12:2). And that’s where the battleground exists for our youth: their minds. Author Dr. Jean M. Twenge, in her book iGen: Why Today’s Super-Connected Kids Are Growing Up Less Rebellious, More Tolerant, Less Happy—and Completely Unprepared for Adulthood—and What That Means for the Rest of Us, asserts that this rising generation is “on the brink of the worst mental health crisis in decades.” 

God has placed us in their lives to love and “direct [our] children onto the right path, [so that] when they are older, they will not leave it” (Proverbs 22:6).

Next month, I will share practical ways you can co-labor alongside your youth pastor to help the students run their race well — to run the narrow path and not leave it. In the meantime, this is the back-to-school season. Make a commitment, as a family, that no matter the academic, athletic or arts schedule, that you will not forsake time with “[those who are] continually devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer” (Acts 2:42).

The youth pastor is not your child’s primary disciple-maker. You are.

C.J. Wetzler is the NextGen pastor at The Church at 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@dfb.church.

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CLERGY CORNER: The experiment

Posted on 02 August 2017 by LeslieM

Psychology Today published some time ago an experiment conducted by a Harvard psychologist named Dr. Robert Rosenthal on a group of students and teachers living in Jerusalem. The experiment went as follows: a group of physical education teachers and students were randomly chosen and randomly divided into three groups. 

In the first group, the teachers were told that previous testing indicated that all the students had an average ability in athletics and an average potential. The teachers were told, “Go and train them!” 

The second group of teachers was told that students in their group, based on previous testing, exhibited an unusually high potential for excellence in athletic…“Go and train them!” 

And the third group of teachers was told that their group of students had exhibited, based on previous testing, an extremely low potential for athletic training…“Now, go and train them!” 

The teachers were given several weeks to work with and interact with their student athletes. At the end of the training period the results were the same for male and female students, and for male and female teachers. All of those students who had been randomly identified as being rather average in ability performed about average on the tests. All of those students who were randomly identified as being above average, performed above average. All those students who were randomly identified as below the average, performed below the average by a considerable margin. The results of the test indicated that what the teachers thought their students’ ability was, and what the students themselves thought their ability was, went a long way toward deciding just how well they performed as athletes. 

Psychology Today took special note of this experiment because it confirmed in the physical arena what psychologists had long claimed to be true in the educational and emotional arena: The concept of the self-fulfilling prophecy. Students in classrooms, workers in shops, patients in therapy all do better when the person in charge expects them to do well, when they themselves expect to do well.

One’s own self esteem, one’s own self-image, what someone thinks of themselves and thinks himself capable of are extremely crucial factors in deciding what one can be, of what one is to make of himself or herself, and that the way we see ourselves plays an important role in the way others see us as well. 

The circus

Did you ever go to the circus? Remember those huge elephants that weighed several tons who were held in place by a small chain wrapped around one of their huge legs, and held to the ground by a small wooden stake? If those huge elephants wanted to, they could walk right through those small chains and that small wooden stake like a hot knife going through butter. But they don’t. Why is that? 

When they were little baby elephants, they were chained down by those same small chains and the small wooden stakes. But to them, as babies, they couldn’t move. They tried and tried and tried again and could not release themselves from those chains and stakes. And then, an interesting thing happened. They stop trying. They gave up. They developed a belief system.

Now, as adult elephants, they don’t try because they are programmed to believe that their efforts would be useless – in vain. As huge, adult elephants, they don’t even try. They’re held in prison by their beliefs. 

The same is true with so many of us. The spies in Moses times declared: “We were like grasshoppers in our own eyes, and so were we in their eyes.” As a result, the nation wept in vain. The spies caused the Jews to perceive themselves as hopeless, small and futile “grasshoppers.” Thus, they also came to believe that everyone looks at them as mere grasshoppers. When you think you are weak, you indeed become weak, and you believe that everyone considers you the same. 

Part of leaving exile and being worthy of redemption is that we must stand firm, united, filled with resolve. We must never capitulate. As individuals and as a community, we must dismiss the sense of powerlessness.

We ought to remember that in every situation we are empowered by G-d to create light out of darkness and to continue our march to bring healing and redemption to our world, with the coming of Messiah, so that this Tisha B’av (anniversary of the destruction of both Temples) is transformed into a grand festival. Amen.

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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