May 22 – Extravagant Generosity with Marcia Gould

I joined Lake Deaton United Methodist Church as many of you did with the launch on July 1, 2020.  Prior to that I primarily attended the Lake Deaton campus of New Covenant United Methodist Church and participated in the combined choirs Christmas and Easter music programs.  My husband, Jim, and I have been married for almost 30 years and have no children but have seven nieces and nephews.  My mom, Ellie, is 91 years old and lives in The Villages and my sister and I provide her daily care. I am a member of Lake Deaton UMC’s Financial Resources Team.

Scripture: They are to do good, to be rich in good works, generous, and ready to share, thus storing up for themselves the treasure of a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of the life that really is life.  1 Timothy 6:18-19

Give, and you will receive.  Your gift will return to you in full – pressed down, shaken together to make room for more, running over, and poured into your lap.  The amount you give will determine the amount you get back.  Luke 6:38

Devotion: Have you ever daydreamed about receiving a large bequest from a distant relative?  Did you think about how you would spend that large bequest – would it be fabulous vacation, or a new home or new car?  Would you donate a portion or all of the bequest to your church or charitable causes you support?

We are blessed!  We have received an immeasurable bequest from God!  He has given us life and has blessed us with the promise of eternal life with Him if we trust and believe in Him.  He sent Jesus to teach us about His great love for us and how to live our lives in obedience and faithfulness to Him.   Jesus taught us to trust in God in all things and he would provide for us.  Jesus taught us to love one another, do good works and be generous so that we may live the life that is intended for us by God.  Schnase tells us extravagant generosity is “a style and attitude of giving that is unexpectedly joyous, without predetermined limits, from the heart, extraordinary, over-the-top, and propelled by great passion.  Extravagant generosity is giving to God as God has given to us.” As a member of LDUMC’s Financial Resources Team, I see the donations and gifts the church has received and what we can spend on ministries.  One of the hardest things I must do in my church role is to recommend we not pursue a ministry we know would benefit our congregation and our community when we don’t have sufficient donations to pursue this ministry.  Think what extravagant generosity could do for our church and community if we could financially support those ministries currently not supported. What ministries do you wish LDUMC would support?  Are you willing to give extravagantly to support new ministries?

Discussion Questions:

  1. Search your own heart.  Why do you give?  Duty, Self-satisfaction, Prestige, Love’s compulsion?
  2. Write down things that we can do to help us become more generous as a church and congregation.

May 21 – Extravagant Generosity with Randy Rimington

“You will be enriched in every way for your generosity.”  2 Corinthians 9:11

Hi, my name is Randy Rimington.  I serve as the chairperson of your Financial Resources Team.  That team is responsible for the overseeing of the church’s financial resources—basically making sure your contributions are being used wisely in the support of your church.  I reluctantly agreed to write this devotion on “Extravagant Generosity” as it is always a challenge to address anything that has to do with money.  But the idea of “Extravagant Generosity” extends beyond just money.  Generosity, by definition, is the giving of self and one’s resources freely and joyfully to others.  It is an understanding of our privilege and responsibility.  Generosity is practiced in the repeated acts of giving.  People who give generously do so because they genuinely desire to make a positive difference.  With respect to the church, people give because they love God, they love their church, and they desire to grow in love of their neighbors, whether those neighbors live across the street or in another part of the United States, or even in another part of the world.  As people grow in their relationship to Christ, they grow also in the practice of “Extravagant Generosity,” offering more of themselves for the purposes of Christ and providing the resources that strengthen ministry and that help the church touch the lives of more and more people in the same way their own lives have been transformed by God.

1 Timothy reminds us that the generous heart is rich in the life that really is life.

Central to the discussion of Extravagant Generosity is the discussion of the Tithe.  Methodists believe that fruitful congregations practice proportional giving with the goal toward tithing.  I think all of us know that tithing refers to giving 10%.  Before I comment on that, I did some research on Tithing.  I found it interesting that Jews, Greek Orthodox Christians, Lutherans, and even Catholics no longer teach tithing.  Many Jews use a dues system to support their synagogues, Lutherans encourage cheerful, proportionate giving, and Catholics merely ask for the support of the local parish.  I also found that some countries support their churches by a “church tax,” generally 1-3%, countries such as Austria, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Italy, and Switzerland to name a few.  Am I suggesting that the Methodist teaching of the tithe is wrong?  Certainly not, I am saying that I believe that the success or failure of a church does not depend on whether a church teaches tithing.  Rather the success or failure of a church is dependent on whether the gospel is preached, and the spiritual needs of the congregation are being met.  I also believe love will always out give law every time.  People respond more to love of God than the fear of God.  That is the power of an “indestructible life” as mentioned in Hebrew 7:16.

Well, this is the point in this devotion that I probably should give an example of extravagant generosity.  Frankly, I do not have a specific example.  Personally, in the past, I did not give too much to the church.  I always gave a fixed amount and did raise that amount from time to time, but that amount was just part of my annual budget with no relationship to our income, and certainly nowhere near 10% of income.  After all, and just like many of you, we had a mortgage, kids to raise and get through college, and certainly desired a certain lifestyle.  Over the past 10 years or so, our giving has changed.  We have pledged to debt elimination and building programs, in part because I chaired those committees and would not ask others for anything that I would not be willing to give myself, but more than that, because I truly believed in the projects, i.e. to eliminate debt at New Covenant, to build the Lake Deaton church, and to eliminate our debt here at Lake Deaton.  All those contributions were over and above the annual amount we were already giving.  In summary, we are now giving at a rate that is growing toward that 10% number.  Linda and I do give of our time and talents to the church in various ways, but are we giving “extravagantly?”  Frankly, that is not for us to determine.   We just give because we love our Church, we love helping others, and we love God.

So, in summary, as to the “Practice of Extravagant Generosity,” one question is “is it all about money?”  The answer to that question is “no.”  We can certainly give of our time and talent to the church and support its mission.  The next question then becomes, “Can giving of our time and talents relieve us of our monetary responsibility?”  The answer to that question is also “no.”  The primary motivating force behind extravagant generosity for people of faith is the extravagant generosity of God.  None of us would be here in and around The Villages if not for God blessing us.  And of course, “God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.”  John 3:16.   

Finally, it has been said that those who practice Extravagant Generosity have a God-given vision to plant seeds for trees whose shade they will never see. 

Discussion Questions:

  1. Do you have an extravagant generosity story that you can share? 
  2. Have you ever “paid it forward,” and if so, how did you feel?
  3. Can we really make a difference as a church in our community and in the world given all the “issues” we are facing?  How do we make that difference?

May 20 – Extravagant Generosity with Stan Hoover

I was trained as a pastor and enjoyed pastoral ministry. In 2000, I was appointed a district superintendent in The Wesleyan Church and continued in the role until my recent retirement.

Practice: Extravagant Generosity.

Matthew 6:1-4, “Be careful not to do your ‘acts of righteousness’ before men, to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven.

“So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by men. I tell you the truth, they received their reward in full. But, when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.”

Richard was a member of our medium-sized congregation. Richard worked in a local factory, and he and his wife did not live an extravagant lifestyle. I doubt that Richard ever enjoyed a new pickup truck.

Richard had a speech impediment, but he faithfully attended church with a positive, pleasant and quiet attitude.

Soon after Richard retired from the factory, our growing church faced a transition in janitorial care. Because the church was experiencing financial pressures, teams of volunteers had been organized to care for the property while the church grew in its outreach to community people, including troubled youth and children. The carpets regularly sustained coffee spills. The walls were marked with handprints and pencils. Cigarette butts were constantly appearing near the church entrance. New scuff marks regularly appeared on the tile floors. And, the restrooms required constant attention.

One morning Richard road his bicycle several miles to the church to see me. In his halting voice he said, “I-I-I want to clean the church.” Thinking he wanted to take on a task that day, I began to take him to janitorial closet. But he stopped me, “No—I want to do it always.” I told Richard that we could not pay him much and the job was very demanding. He had no prior janitorial experience, but I saw a kind, generous man in Richard.

Richard daily arrived at the church by bicycle or his old pickup truck before 6 am. When I arrived an hour or so later, I often saw him on his hands and knees scrubbing heal marks, removing coffee stains and gathering cigarette butts from the night before. Our church hosted massive crowds on special occasions, yet the building was always clean and presentable. Day after day, year after year, I do not recall a single complaint from Richard. Numbers of people came and went from the church, and they barely noticed him.

Often, I saw Richard in worship when the sanctuary was teeming with new faces. Tears were in his eyes as he looked over the crowds and participated as he was able. Years later, I asked Richard why he was doing this. His response, “It-It-It is a privilege to prepare the House of the Lord for worship.”

Question: In what ways is the Holy Spirit nudging you to give generously in our church and community?

Prayer: Heavenly Father, help me to respond to needs around me in ways that go beyond the usual or expected. Use me however You choose, and may You get the credit. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.

May 19 – Extravagant Generosity with Bob Lord

My story began when playing table shuffleboard.  Doug Wilcox invited me to a men’s breakfast at New Covenant UMC.  My soul was fed by the spirit and community of men wanting to know Jesus more deeply.  I grew to like the church and began to attend the Lake Deaton breakfast and church service by my home.  

Joanne and I joined Lake Deaton UMC in February 2020.

After the Church transition, Loida and Jim asked me to become the Treasurer which I gladly accepted.     

In our previous Church home, we gave our Time, Talent and Treasure to God’s purpose.  Just like Matt and Keri’s story in the 5 Practices book, we were asked to share our journey.  My wife and I encountered the same struggles as the couple in the book.

When I was a Chartered Retirement Planning Counselor, I counseled hundreds of people and found that the happiest clients were the people who were Jesus Centered.    

I would help clients with their budget.  The people who were most at peace wanted to joyously give to their Church first. The believers in Christ were willing to give up Starbucks and not go out to eat everyday so that they could Tithe to their Church.    

In Proverbs, people are reminded to Honor the Lord with the first fruits of all your produce. (Proverbs 3:9) How people use their material resources either honors or dishonors their relationship to God.  Generosity aligns one’s life with God’s purpose.    

Will you consider Extravagant Generosity to express your Love of God and your neighbor?  You will be enriched in every way for your great generosity.   (2 Corinthians 9:11)   

Reflection Questions:

  1. Did you ever buy things that you did not need with money you did not have to impress people you didn’t know?
  2. Do you believe that the practice of generosity is a means by which God builds you up, strengthens your spirit and equips you to serve God’s purposes?

May 18 – Extravagant Generosity with Lynn Argus

Hi, my name is Lynn Argus. I am a Child of God, a wife, a mother, a grandmother, and a great-grandmother. I am blessed to serve as your Chairperson of Ministry, which includes all the ministries of the church.

My story is one of Extravagant Generosity that was given to me during one of the most difficult times in my life. I was diagnosed with an incurable auto immune disease and two months later my Stepson abandoned his four children at my doorstep.

Watch the video to see the amazing way God works through the brotherhood of believers.

It was September of 2006 when I was diagnosed with an incurable auto immune disease which sapped my strength and made it difficult for me to even walk across the room.

On December 21, 2006, my stepson Ric abandoned his four children at our doorstep. Christmas was a week away and they all needed Christmas presents, close to wear, to be enrolled in school and we needed to obtain custody of them. It was a crazy time and I thought God may have deserted me.

After many tears and prayers asking God why, I received an answer. You see, I had become very self-sufficient, I was active in my church, I prayed, I taught Bible studies, but I had forgotten that my very life depended on God and all the blessings that I had been receiving came straight from his hand.

God told me, in my spirit, that I was to trust Him and depend on Him for everything I needed. Trust has never been easy for me; so, his answer to me took a great leap of faith.

Sure enough, when I stopped trying to control everything, God was faithful to His promise. Each day, I would ask God for what we needed and whatever I ask for appeared. Our family of faith rallied around us and would appear out of the blue with meals, beds, clothing, or help move furniture around. Two of our neighbors even showed up on Christmas Eve with a stocking for each child, with their name on them.

Sometimes a friend or neighbor would just show up with something that they thought we needed for the children, usually something I had just asked God for.

When I was obedient and put my trust in him, my faith increased, and I felt closer and closer to my Lord each day. I learned to pray about everything and be thankful, no matter the circumstances.

My friend Kitty came to see me one day, just to ask how I was doing. Before she left, she said, “I just have one more question. How is your faith?”

I was able to tell her that my faith had become stronger with each bit of Extravagant Generosity that I received. God supplied all my needs with the Extravagant Generosity of His children.

Discussion Questions:

  1. Have you ever received a gift of extravagant generosity?
  2. Have you ever given a gift of extravagant generosity?
  3. Have you thought about how God works through believers to bless his children?

May 17 – Extravagant Generosity with Jocelyn Dunstan

“You will be enriched in every way for your great generosity.”  2 Corinthians 9:11

Thirty years ago, I visited a brand-new United Methodist Church on a lake front in Virginia. The young pastor spoke of the love of Jesus in such a way that everyone longed to be closer to Jesus, and that included me.

From the day the building opened, it could not accommodate all the people who wanted to attend the worship and mission activities. There were children everywhere.  Church volunteers led Boy and Girl Scouts, youth groups, small children, nursery, and Bible study–meetings that required bales of snacks and beverages, plus educational materials. Most adult groups met at near-by homes.  I loved that church, but it became apparent that the building needed breathing room.

The leaders approved an extended capital campaign. Under a deluge of prayer for God’s guidance and blessing, pledge committee representatives asked each member to make a commitment, both financially and personally. Near the conclusion of the campaign, one Bible study teacher was asked to give witness. He said, “Considering the blessings that God has given to my family and me, we have decided to pledge $1,732 each month to this church.  That amount is slightly larger than our mortgage payment, but we feel it is right for us.”  They had a modest home and two growing boys. Their generosity inspired me deeply, along with many more in the congregation.  God saw that the building grew, as did our missions and our relationships with Him.

Bishop Robert Schnase says, “Generosity enlarges the soul.” That reminded me of the first time I visited a worship service of the congregation that would become Lake Deaton UMC. I stood at the door and gazed at the crowd. Then I whispered, “My Lord, they are so joyous.” I would come to know them as people who mentor local teen-agers, feed the hungry through the food pantry, provide respite to exhausted caregivers, build water wells in Africa, and foster the development of businesses by street children in India.  This is but a partial list.  These are enlarged souls, indeed.

Discussion Questions:

  1. How has someone else’s generosity touched you and shaped your practice of giving?
  2. From whom did you learn generosity?

Prayer: Dear God, Thank you for your countless blessings.  Free our hearts to trust you entirely and to be extravagantly generous in giving and serving you.  In Jesus name. 

May 15 – Intentional Faith Development with Donna Baker

Scripture: 18 But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To Him be glory, both now and forever. Amen. 2 Peter 3:18

I still remember as a teenager believing that I was a true Christian. During worship, as the pastor preached on the 10 Commandments, I opened my Bible to Exodus 20 and, in my brain, ‘checked off’ each commandment. If I am not guilty of breaking any of these commandments, then I am a good Christian, right? Looking back on that day, I can now understand that this was my first ‘baby step’ in my Christian journey. But fast forward twenty-six years when the three-day spiritual retreat, Walk to Emmaus, totally changed my comprehension! Finally, I got it!!! Being a Christian signifies a relationship with Christ. A true friendship. A deep and meaningful bond with Jesus.

But then how does that relationship deepen? With our special friends, how do we become closer? We dig deeper! We ask each other about our family, our childhood years, the struggles, challenges, and victories in our lives. As we learn more about each other through listening, we begin to trust each other, confide with one another, and begin to cherish our relationship. Jesus calls us to use the very same practices to become closer to Him. And in Christian small groups, this also enhances our faith because of the witnesses we share with others.

Recently, I enrolled in a class lead by Pastor Kris Schonewolf called “Four Keys to Hearing God’s Voice”. That’s exactly what I needed! Although I had studied the Bible and worked daily devotionals into my morning routine, I wanted more. I wanted to hear God’s voice more often. Over the years, especially through difficult times, God had clearly spoken to me. But I wanted conversations with my Lord so that I would come to know Jesus even more. The book provides clearly defined steps toward that goal through two-way journaling, meditating, and prayer. I’ll share some of my recent profound experiences in the accompanying video.

Growing in our faith requires intentional, planned, and disciplined practices, which include prayer, meditation, Bible study, small group discussions, and even devotionals shared as couples.  More importantly, God uses these practices to help me to grow in my relationship with Jesus, moving me beyond a “10 Commandment” devotee, to a true follower of Christ. And I am so grateful for Christ’s intervention in my life.

Discussion / Reflection Questions:

  1. How could you take a new step to deepen your spiritual life?
  2. Reflect on the experiences of your life when you have felt the presence of the Lord.

Prayer: Dear Lord, I cherish you. I need you even more fully in my life. Please guide me through those steps, these practices, and concepts so that I can hear your voice, sense your presence, and develop a stronger relationship with you.

May 14 – Intentional Faith Development with Diane Hatfield

My name is Diane Hatfield and I moved to The Villages from Kansas five years ago.  I am currently on the Women’s Ministry Board, the Re—Vision Team,  a MOAMI volunteer, and am on an usher team.

Scripture:  …“rejoice with those who rejoice,” and “weep with those who weep” (Romans 12:15)

My parents raised me in the Methodist Church and they were outstanding examples for me through their devotion to our church.  In spite of their good example, I was simply going through the motions of being a Christian.  While I always attended church throughout my life and took on many responsibilities in the church, I must admit that my personal relationship with Jesus was extremely weak.   In my video, I will tell you how that changed, and why I feel intentional faith development is so important in the life of Lake Deaton UMC.

Reflection questions:

  1.  What relationships or activities in church have helped to grow your faith?
  2.  How can you help someone else to grow their faith?

May 13 – Intentional Faith Development with Gail DiCuccio

My name is Gail DiCuccio. I am originally from Pennsylvania and have lived in The Villages ( 8 months a year) since 2011. I graduated from the University of Pittsburgh and spent 28 years in special education and counseling. I have three grown, married children in PA and NJ, and five grandchildren, all under nine years of age.

Colossians 3:10:  You are living a brand new kind of life that is continually learning more and more of what is right, and trying constantly to be more and more like Christ who created this new life within  you.

To me, this scripture describes sanctification as a continual process of growth and renewal; and our part is the trying constantly to be more and more Christlike. If I am to be “constantly trying,” then I must be intentional. As a United Methodist, I embrace the Wesleyan idea that we learn better in groups with others. As a child I loved Sunday school and VBS, singing in the choir, and later, youth group. As an adult I have served in many capacities in my church in PA as part of a wonderful family of believers. Moving to The Villages, however put me in a place regarding church that I had not experienced in forty years: I didn’t have a church. No matter how many years you have been a Christian, it is difficult to walk into a new church for the first time.

The first Sunday I walked into Lake Deaton, it was like God had preplanned a wonderful experience for me. One of the greeters was a girlfriend that I knew from dancing. The smile and hug from her gave me such comfort!  Then when I sat down, I recognized a gal from a group I had joined of all new women to the Villages, called MOAMI (Moving On after Moving In). Another sigh of relief. The service was familiar and positive. I didn’t  linger after the service, but two people smiled and told me to have a great week. I knew I had found a new family.

I loved that there was a woman’s ministry as I read the bulletin and I wanted to attend the next one. By then I had met several more people and realized there were more MOAMI gals involved, but it was a personal request from one of them to attend that really made me feel good about it and truly welcome.

Following that, the Holy Spirit nudged me to sign up for a small group book study. There were about twelve wonderful women and a super facilitator. New friendships, lots of sharing, lots of prayer concerns. In six weeks I had grown from the study but also from the collective stories of others, and I had an opportunity to share my story about healing from a horrific accident with the power of prayer.

Bottom line: I was intentional and it has been wonderful growth for me. As the family of Lake Deaton, we must be intentional about providing opportunities to share and encourage.

Discussion Questions:

  1. What is the Holy Spirit nudging you to get involved in for you to grow and also have opportunity to encourage others?
  2. Where do we have unmet needs in our community that could lead to opportunities for faith development?

Prayer: Heavenly Father, Guide and direct us to cultivate growth in faith in more intentional ways so that we can strengthen Lake Deaton and also invite more people to transforming relationships. In Jesus’ name, Amen

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.