May 12 – Intentional Faith Development with Debra Douthett

My name is Debra Douthett, and I am a retired Special Education teacher. I grew up in Florida, married my husband Joel, and raised our two children here.  We now live the Village of Dunedin.

Today, we will examine intentional faith development as one of the Five Practices of a Fruitful Congregation.  We ask that the Holy Spirit guide us as we discuss making the choice to join others in fellowship, learning, praying, and in the breaking of bread. We ask for God’s help as we seek to mature in faith and develop relationships with others.

As part of my spiritual journey, I participate in the Fresh Expressions program, Messy Church.  This program takes place in the Wildwood Community. Messy Church provides a church experience for families   that otherwise might not attend church.  We tell stories, sing songs, make crafts, and pray together.  Each session ends with the sharing of a meal.  This program brings together people who have vastly different life experiences, but who share a love of God and wish to learn more about His will. is    Messy Church has been a great opportunity to share and fellowship across age and social boundaries. 

Scripture reminds us that Jesus reached out to all kinds of people. The rich, the poor, the young and the old, those in robust health and those that suffer, those held in high regard and those that were outcasts. 3 John 1:5 reads ”Beloved, you do faithfully whatever you do for the friends, even though they are strangers to you.” We are called to welcome all as we would friends.

Discussion Questions:

  1. How have I committed to learn and grow in my faith through community?
  2. How can I reach out to the unchurched to share in my faith journey?

Pray with me: Gracious and Heavenly Father, we humbly enter your presence. We praise you for all that we have been given.  We ask that The Holy Spirit be with us as we grow in community and in faith. We seek to bind ourselves together in your name.   We ask for courage and compassion as each of us seek to share your love and develop our understanding of your ways.  In Jesus’ holy and precious name, AMEN.

May 11 – Intentional Faith Development with Jim Divine

“All the believers devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching, and to fellowship, and to sharing in meals (including the Lord’s Supper), and to prayer.”  Acts 2:42

My understanding of intentional faith development has grown through the active participation in three areas: a small group community, systematically reading the Bible and a commitment to spiritual growth. In each of these three areas I have found in my own life, as well as that of others, that to simply put myself within the process of the activity of doing these things faithfully, has led to a continued process of faith development in my life. When we are engaging God and engaging other Christians in intentional interaction we cannot help growing from the process.  

As you spend some time today in this study I encourage you to both reflect back on how your growth has been shaped by these and other activities and if needed find a way to begin one or more of these practices within your own life.

For those of you who are really interested here is take 1! Enjoy!

May 10 – Intentional Faith Development with Nancy Ward

Acts 16:4-5

Then they went from town to town, instructing the believers to follow the decisions made by the apostles and elders in Jerusalem. So the churches were strengthened in their faith and grew larger every day.

Hi, I’m Nancy Ward, a member of Lake Deaton United Methodist Church’s Discipleship committee, here to share with you my thoughts on Intentional Faith Development.

Intentional Faith Development calls on us as Christians to learn God’s word, grow in our faith and share and explore that faith with others. Jesus Christ calls us to reflect his love for us out to the world.

We can study and learn about the Bible and God’s word on our own, but doing so in community keeps us accountable to that faith development. At Lake Deaton, we have many opportunities to fellowship with others including small groups, Grow Nights, Sunday School, Bible Studies and more. Even during COVID we have met on Zoom, talked on the phone and found ways to connect and weather our “storms” together in faith. When we’re studying with people who come to the table with different experiences, we learn to strengthen our love for God in ways we never imagined.

As a member of Lake Deaton for 6 years, I’m always amazed at the faith development activities which are available to us. I’ve learned from wonderful teachers and insightful group members. This has changed my faith life. It’s my hope that you will take part in some of these opportunities which have helped me in my walk with Christ

Each person’s faith grows differently but I’ll tell you about my faith journey in the video.

Discussion questions:

  1. Who has helped you in developing your knowledge of the Bible? What have churches you’ve attended before coming to Lake Deaton done to help you become a more faithful Christian?
  2. How could you help share your faith with others?

May 8 – Risk-Taking Mission and Service with Barb Strome

Hello Lake Deaton family and friends.  My name is Barbie Strome and my greatest Joy comes from serving others.


When I began volunteering at the Wildwood Soup Kitchen, I didn’t know that delivering hot meals to individual families would evolve into also delivering hot meals and weekly groceries to a group of homeless families living in a rundown motel near the interstate. Every Wednesday, boxes filled with vegetables, fruits, cereals, crackers, granola bars, peanut butter, jelly, breads, soups, pastries, canned tuna and chicken, pastas, ramen noodles, etc., completely filled my car. Not knowing exactly where I was going or who I would be meeting was a bit outside my comfort zone, but Philippians 4:13 “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” kept coming to mind.

Waiting for me was a group of people, anxious to help unload the car and quick to give thanks for all they were given. All but one guy, named Chris. He was there to take whatever he could and then quickly leave.  Each week, as we all became more comfortable with each other, I began to really look forward to this delivery! Finding out individual likes and wants, choosing the foods to take, and packing up the car always included great joy! Conversation became easier, except with Chris.  It took almost a year to earn his trust.

Then one day, after helping carry those boxes inside the motel, Chris asked if he could walk me to my car. “Sure”, I replied.  On the way, Chris opened up about his life, his family, his Grandmother who raised him, and his inability to read.  He asked me if I would pray for him? Philippians 4:13 came to mind and I was able.  After the prayer, I asked Chris if he would like a daily devotional that his Grandmother could read to him? His eyes lit up and a big smile led into “Yes”.  He asked if I could sign it inside the front cover?  Chris wanted his Grandmother to know that I gave it to him.  After that, Chris was the first to greet me and always told me to “Drive safely, Miss Barb” as I left.

Discussion Questions:

  1. What is God putting on your heart to step outside your comfort zone in order to help others?
  2. How can Lake Deaton UMC live into a Risk-taking mission and service in the surrounding community?

Prayer: Heavenly Father, thank you for working through us, with us, and for us.  Help us to take that first risky step, seeing beyond our needs and loving beyond ourselves. We can do all things through Christ who strengthens us. AMEN

May 7 – Risk-Taking Mission and Service with Liz Schweers

One of the practices I have most admired in the Methodist church is community outreach and service—being doers not simply hearers of the word.  Hungry, unhoused people need Christ’s word but they also need to be fed and housed.  Of course, most of us living in The Villages might not expect to be on the receiving end of someone else’s service; however, some of us may have experienced downturns in our lives. I know I have, and I can tell you that the experience was extremely humbling and life altering.

Christmas is a crummy time for an employer to furlough employees despite reassurances that those furloughed would not lose their jobs but would be recalled.  My family and I had just moved to a new community and had waited a few months before deciding that the job and project would be stable enough to warrant purchasing a home.   We had made one house payment before 10,000 employees were sent home with the understanding that after the holidays construction of the nuclear plant would resume. We enjoyed a few weeks free from work over the holidays and expected life to resume as normal only to have all construction halted permanently January 3rd.  Two weeks later my husband had a heart attack.

The small, rural Methodist church was a change for us, but we had established membership and joined a Bible study class.  I mentioned the circumstances we were experiencing and members of the class prayed for us.  The next Sunday the pastor announced that there was a needy family who could use help.  I wrote a check for $5, all I felt we could afford, and put it in the plate.  Much to my surprise the offering was for our family.  What a humbling experience and one which put into perspective what helping others looks like.  The outpouring of love—from money, to sacks of groceries, to a job offer for me, and even to  a very generous gift of money from a previous church family—started my family on a path of lifelong service to others.  Our path forward was unclear but we fully understood that  God wanted us to experience firsthand what being vulnerable looks like so that we would never forget to reach out to others.  And we have never forgotten God’s mercy as expressed through so many.

May 6 – Risk-Taking Mission and Service with Pete Popko

My wife, Michele, and I have been members since shortly after our arrival in Florida in the summer of 2015.  I served 27 years of active duty and 13 years as a civilian in the U.S. Coast Guard.

Risk-Taking Mission and Service from Five Practices of Fruitful Congregations

Matthew 25:14-30

As we age, it is very common to be less trustful of our abilities to do things as we once did.  Our hearing and eyesight aren’t what they used to be.  Our muscles ache and our joints are stiff with arthritis.  Our minds aren’t as sharp. We begin to lose trust in our own abilities. It is easy to want to sit back and let others carry on.  After all, we were the ones that used to carry the load, now it’s time for someone else to step up.

However, the well-known parable of the “talents” tells us what is expected of us.  We are all granted valuable gifts and skills.  God expects us to use what we have been given to love and serve others.  That expectation does not stop when we reach at a certain age. As the scripture verse indicates, our Lord will not be pleased with those who are given much yet let those gifts be “buried” to languish and be unused.

Since coming to this area nearly 6 years ago, I have come to appreciate that we are surrounded by a multitude of talented and experienced people from a wide variety of professions and interests. In our church, here at Lake Deaton, I am inspired by so many who freely share their gifts and talents as the Lord asks us. Just think of the untapped potential that exists within our church community and in our surrounding neighborhoods. If only we could “unbury” those gifts and talents and put them to God’s work, one could only image what a difference it would make our lives and the lives of those around us.

Discussion Questions:

  1. What gifts or talents has God given you?
  2. What are you doing with your gifts or talents to love and to serve others?
  3. What talents and gifts have you “buried” instead of investing them in the Lord’s work?

Prayer: Dear Lord, give us the courage to use our gifts and talents in risk-taking mission and service.  Put in all of our hearts the desire to love and serve those around us in your holy name.  May our collective talents meld into a powerful force for enlarging your kingdom on earth.

May 5 – Risk Taking Mission and Outreach with Sharon Evans

Hi, my name is Sharon Evans. My husband, Bill, and I are from Pennsylvania/Virginia, and moved to The Villages three years ago. We felt welcomed at once into the congregation, and have been members of Lake Deaton UMC for two and a half years. I feel blessed to have been in a small group, Sweet Sisters of Faith, led by Pat Bailey, for over two years now. I really enjoy the closeness of our small group.

Risk-taking mission and service

Hello, Lake Deaton friends. Jesus says to us in Matthew 25:40 “And truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.” Jesus calls us to love and serve others. He wants us to be courageous. He wants us to trust that He is always with us and will guide us.

My dad passed away from ALS this past Christmas Eve. I was blessed to be able to help care for my father for several months as his health failed. Even with personal aides and hospice, and with a lot of help from my husband and with my mother doing what she could, it was both physically and emotionally exhausting for all of us. I feel that now I have a great deal of empathy for caretakers of those with terminal illnesses, and even though I am feeling drawn to help others who are going through the same thing, the thought of it is a little scary. But I know that I can ask God through prayer to lead me, and that I can ask for direction and courage to begin the process. And like most of us at this stage in our lives, I have extra time on my hands to look for ways to serve others. 

The parable of the five talents (Matthew 25:14-30) teaches us that God wants us to use the resources that we have been given to better ourselves and those in our community. When we serve others, we ourselves have the opportunity to be blessed through new relationships, and this in turn glorifies God. 

Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven. (Matthew 5:16). 

Discussion Questions:

  1. Do I feel God calling me to reach out in mission and service to others?
  2. Is there anything holding me back?
  3. What can I do to get over any hesitation so that I can make that first step?

Prayer: Gracious Heavenly Father, You are so good to us. Thank you for abundantly supplying us with all of our needs. Forgive us when we are so comfortable in our own lives that we fail to notice the needs of others. We ask that you open our eyes and ears so that we do not miss opportunities to serve others in your name. We pray these things in Jesus’ name. Amen

May 4 – Risk-Taking Mission and Service with George Lajti

My name is George Lajti, a member of Lake Deaton UMC for over 5 years, member of SPRT, Head Usher, member of Men’s Ministry and small group co-facilitator.

I have personally experienced what I am about to share with you having worked in the ministry for over 10 years.

Scripture: Matthew 25: 34-40

“As you did it to the Least of These my brothers and sisters, you did it to me.” Matthew 25:40

This is a story about experiencing and seeing someone model this practice. The story begins in our former church in Cincinnati, OH when our senior pastor Wendell Mettey visited Nicaragua in 1990 as part of a medical mission team. He was shocked by the seemingly endless poverty and devastation. When he returned, he founded Matthew 25: Ministries(M25M) in order to help the people of Nicaragua and others in similar need. In the early days supplies were carried to Nicaragua in suitcases.

As the ministry grew the supplies were packed onto pallets and sent by airplane and ocean-going containers. All the wooden pallets had to be found. Wendell would drive around to businesses with a battered pick-up truck, begging for their old pallets and supplies. He never imagined that they would need the more than 250,000 pallets that have been used in their work in over 25 years of operation. Since the start in 1991 over 200,000,000 pounds of aid has been distributed and M25M has shipped over 10,000 containers of aid valued cumulatively at over $2 billion dollars.

M25M now ships more than 16 million pounds of aid a year – that is over 900 truckloads – helping more than 20 million people throughout the U.S. and in more than 60 countries around the world. It has grown from a small suitcase ministry to an international humanitarian aid and disaster relief organization. Caring for a Needy World with the Things We Throw Away.

As a 501(c)(3) non-profit, the mission of M25M is to fulfill Matthew 25: 34-40 by providing nutritional food to the hungry, clean water to the thirsty, clothing to the naked, affordable shelter to the homeless, medical care to the ill, and humanitarian supplies to those in need.

M25M accepts monetary contributions and product donations of misprinted, slightly damaged, over-stocked or gently used supplies from corporations, hospitals and individuals nationwide. They supplement outside donations by manufacturing, assembling and blending products in-house including school notebooks, pencils, rice-soy meals, and latex paint.

These goods are processed by staff and volunteers (70,000 per year) at M25M’ 168,000 square foot facility in Cincinnati, and then shipped to people in need within the U.S. and around the world. Products are distributed through partner organizations, hospitals, clinics, orphanages, feeding centers and schools in developing nations and in the U.S.

M25M’ goal is to help the poorest of the poor and disaster victims locally, regionally, nationally, and internationally.

The people being helped are not receiving a handout but a helping hand. By providing for their most basic needs, they are being positioned to become self-reliant.

Visit the website: to learn more.

Discussion Questions: So here we have seen the risk taking mission and service started from a simple response to an invitation to join an overseas mission trip. Just imagine where your risk taking mission and service can take you!

Are you ready to accept an invitation to serve?

To move out of your comfort zone to serve and help others? …those that need a helping hand?

Prayer: Father God, help us to understand our call to serve, to work alongside you in service to others who need a helping hand. By so doing we can come along side those whose eyes might be opened to your purpose, to save us from our sins and to glorify you here on earth.

May 3 – Risk-Taking Mission and Service with Scott Curry

Hello, my name is Scott Curry. I am on the men’s ministry lead team at Lake Deaton.

The devotional practice I will be presenting today is risk- taking mission and service from five practices of fruitful congregations. My message is to “be fruitful and serve the Lord”. My scripture message is from John 4:19.  Our love for others is our grateful response to the love God first demonstrated to us.

I’m not a mission type guy like the Bakers from our church. That is their gift, calling, and blessing from God. Praise God for our missionaries. We have a myriad of opportunities in the mission field such as providing water wells in the Congo, the Zoe project, Samaritan Purse, UMCOR,Prison Ministry, Matthew 25…Please call the church if you are interested in any of these outreach ministries and missions.

I am more of a service type guy. ”HE” uses me as an instrument or vessel. I surely have a lot of service in my background and at the  present time. I owned my own service business for 23 years. My wife and I were very active in the PADS program for the homeless at our home church. We would provide supper, sleep pads, breakfast, and lunch. We spearheaded a monthly drive for toddlers taking in diapers, underwear, and socks. I loved my 10 years at youth summer camp as well as  bible school.

Today I give my time and service playing piano for the cancer patients at the hospital, LD new respite program,  and during an occasional offertory .  I set up chairs, greet, clean the grounds, work with congregants on cleaning up our church’s  adopted highway.It makes me think of a “Goodman family” song THE LONGER I SERVE HIM THE SWEETER LOVE GROWS.

Outside of church I am a make a wish granter, making kids dreams come true. I help out at House of Hope. We make monthly donations to the food pantry. Serving on the men’s ministry team has been a joy as well. Many congregants serve at the Wildwood schools as mentors. The service opportunities are endless and as Pastor Jim says… We are not done yet. It’s our time and place to give back as we have been so freely blessed in our lives.

I feel we are all at our very best when we serve the Lord. It is not only pleasing to God, but to those served, and it is pleasing to us as well. We have contributed and given the best of ourselves not for personal aggrandizement but for the love of God. He expects our very best for the kingdom.  As believers our spirits guide us to be a vessel through him and to others.

You all know it feels better to give than receive.  Rick Warren states, “God uses people who expect him to act, who never give up, who take risks in faith, who get his dream and go after it. It’s your choice whether you want to be the kind of person God uses to accomplish his purpose.

Other small things you can do to serve: phone calls, visits, prayers, offer help, encouragement, and support… be there,  show up,  listen.  Ask neighbors (churched or unchurched) or Christian brothers and sisters  to a coffee or meal.  Bake for or drop off food to those in need.

You are blessed to be a blessing. It is God’s way.

Prayer: Father, in Jesus we see the perfect model of humble service. Help us to be like him. Open our eyes to the needs of others in the world, and give us the strength and motivation to act boldly when we see those needs. Help us to follow in Christ’s footsteps. Guide us to be good servants and stewards…In Jesus name, we pray. Amen.

Discussion Questions:

  1. Do you have the inner calling to serve?
  2. How can you best serve in our community and the world?
  3. What service or mission would you like Lake Deaton to pursue?

May 1 – Passionate Worship with Laurie Dennison

My husband Glenn & I joined Lake Deaton in January 2019 so we are relative “newbies” to this church.  We spent 20 years in NC and were very active & involved members of First Presbyterian Church in Raleigh NC.  My “criteria” in church shopping was a Bible based church, inspired & teaching sermons, friendly people & classes that would grow my faith & challenge me.  

Assigned Practice: The Practice of Passionate Worship

Scripture:  Romans 12:11 – 13

“Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, service the Lord.  Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.  Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.”

Scripture: Psalm 111

Written devotion:

Worship shouldn’t be approached with a sense of obligation.  Passionate worship is never a matter of merely getting the words and tune right or raising a loud shout. The true test of our passion for God always will be our lives.  Passionate worship should mean no boundaries, no pretenses and flows from the heart.  We need to be examples of passionate worship in our everyday lives.

Does a particular sermon make you squirm because it hits home?  That’s a good thing.  Have you had an “a-ha” moment in church, on a retreat or small group experience?  That’s a good thing.  Or how about when one of the praise band song’s lyrics stir your soul?  That’s a good thing too.  Consider it a “God nudge”.  Explore it and embrace it. Share it with a friend or close neighbor; it could peak their interest which could lead to a great discussion. 

Jesus, many times, taught outside the synagogue & temple.  Our Butterfly Garden will be a wonderful place to hold a small group session.   It’s OK to worship in other spaces.  Our once a month outside services are great at drawing others into our midst.  So is having coffee and conversation with a friend.

Passionate worship reveals our love for God & our desire to open ourselves to God’s grace and our eagerness for relationship to God.  How do we sing? How do we pray? How do we greet others? How do we approach the sacraments? Are we able to speak to friends and neighbors about our faith and our church with an openness that makes them want to question us more?

Questions: Worship is that which spreads into every fiber of our being, every moment of our day, and every appointment on our calendar. 

  1. What do you do to maintain your zeal as a worshiper?
  2. How do you keep your heart on fire?

Prayer:  Father God, let us seek you, pursue you, listen quietly for your voice, insight & direction.  Let us slow down our hectic lives, take a deep breath and through prayer, personal devotion and passionate worship know that we are yours.  In this, we praise your Holy Name.