Growing in God's Grace

Quarterly Newsletter for First Lutheran Stewards

August 2022

"Helping God's people grow in their relationship with Jesus Christ through the use of the time, talents and financial resources God has entrusted to us."

Adult and youth volunteers helped with Vacation Bible School last week. They helped guide children through a week full of songs, story time, games, crafts, and learning about God's love!

Trusting in God’s abundance empowers us to live lives of generosity.
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First Lutheran Disciple's Faith Story

Where God Has Led Me

By Cheryl Mason

When I was a child, my mother brought my siblings and me to Church every Sunday.  Even though we dragged our feet getting to Church, at this point in my life I am eternally grateful she didn’t succumb to our multiple pushback efforts. She taught us the Lord’s Prayer, told us many stories about Jesus’ love for us.  She guided us through Sunday School and Confirmation and beyond.

Soon after I was confirmed at 13, I remember as clear as day an experience I had. I came back to my seat after having received Communion and felt a flush, washed in white from head to toe inside. I felt totally cleansed of my sins.  It was a very pure feeling.  (I’ve never had that experience since.)  I have often wondered what that meant in the heavenly realm. Was it the beginning of my walk with God?  Was it predestination that my life would be His?  I don’t know.

What I do know is that during my whole life, I have strived to take shelter in the Church.  This was manifested through my life’s choices.  I chose to spend time in Church activities.  I chose to regularly attend Church. I chose a husband who was brought up in the Church. I chose to bring my children up in the faith.  I chose to serve in a variety of capacities in my faith communities – from Elder, Head Elder, Chair of the Fellowship Committee, to Council President – twice. And now, I choose to serve within our First Lutheran community in our caring ministries – Stephen Ministry, coordinating the Grief Workshop, offering Healing Prayers on Sunday mornings, and spreading the love of God through the bereavement notes I write to members who have lost loved ones.

I feel more comfortable surrounding myself with people of faith, and my faith has grown exponentially from the faith-filled people in my life.  I am blessed by them on a regular basis and so grateful God put them in my life. 

I have worked very hard trying to learn as much as I can about God’s character, his promises to us, and how he protects, provides and loves us. I have taken classes, twice working my way through the Bible.  I loved learning about references to Jesus in the Old Testament and tying that together with his coming and ministry in the New Testament. I read devotions most days that include Jesus Calling, Devotions from Charles Stanley and, of course, The Holy Bible.

I have heard it said that you must “suffer before you can minister to those who suffer”.  I probably suffered more at the loss of my husband after 43 years of marriage and the experience of the Pandemic than any other experience in my life.  I have come away from those events strengthened spiritually and emotionally. I have learned to trust God and trust in God, knowing that he will strengthen me, never leave me, and will keep me strong.  

One of my favorite Bible verses is “I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.” (Phil. 4:13)   

I have learned how to listen to God and recognize his still small voice and his promptings.  Obeying his guidance is the hard part.  Now, if I could only accept and immediately respond in obedience to where he is leading me, rather than try to take matters into my own hands or act on my own understanding! 

I am gaining spiritual maturity – albeit having taken a lifetime to get to this point. I wish I had this level of spiritual maturity earlier in my marriage and when I was raising my kids.  I know we are told we will have difficulties in this life and challenges to grow our faith.  At least now I realize I trust in a patient, loving God who walks beside me, a God who will never give me more challenges than I can handle, and a God who will never leave me.

God has blessed me with everything I could ever want in life.  He has blessed me with radical abundance! A life I could never have imagined.  I am eternally grateful to my Mother for giving me the gift of Faith, and to my Father for reminding me that God’s currency is love.

Pastor's Perspective

Shortly after Nancy and I moved into the parsonage in November 2014, I planted the top of a fresh pineapple in some potting soil, quite frankly just to see what might happen. Since then, we have patiently watched our pineapple grow to a relatively large plant.  It spends the summer outside in our back yard. Winters are spent on the breezeway also where Flash, one of Nancy’s cats sleeps each evening. (Before anyone gets too concerned, we cover the windows with insulating plastic and run a heater in the breezeway each winter).

This past spring, as I was moving our large pineapple plant back outside once again, I wondered if perhaps all this care was for naught. “How could a tropical plant produce anything even close to fruit in Ellicott City, MD?” I wondered. 

Imagine my surprise a few weeks ago when, in a timeframe that seemed overnight, I noticed a pineapple right in the middle of the plant! It’s been a delight these past few weeks telling folks about our new addition to the backyard garden. Even those who attended our recent Vacation Bible School took an opportunity to wonder at the little pineapple growing in the backyard of our home. 

So what’s a pineapple got to do with a Pastor’s Perspective on Stewardship? In our role as stewards of all that God has entrusted to our care, we are charged with caring for God’s creation: tending to the care of plants and animals, providing food and nourishment, and creating a habitat that supports life. My pineapple plant reminds me of my role in caring for God’s creation, to be sure.

But the real lesson I learned came from the reminder that as God’s stewards, we are charged with extending care, with no promise of any kind of repayment.  That reminder came just at the right time, for as I transferred my seemingly fruitless pineapple out to the backyard, my patience was growing thin and I was beginning to think that all my effort was simply a waste of time and resources.  Yet God showed me, once again, that while we are the caretakers of the time, talent and treasures God entrusts to our care, it is God who is the one responsible for fruit-bearing!

When we spend our time doing God’s work in the world, we might not see an immediate result from our ministry. The same is true when we give generously of the financial resources God entrusts to our care or when we share the talents with which we have been blessed. In fact, we might, after several years of giving without seeing any evidence of our ever receiving a “return” on our investment, be inclined to wonder if our stewardship efforts were in vain. And then, just like that pineapple blooming forth from what I thought was a barren plant, God will surely produce fruit in due time.

As we look ahead to that time in the church that is normally “stewardship season” (a time when we prayerfully consider how we are being called to share the time, talents and treasures God has entrusted to our care) my hope is that we will, as the collective body of Christ, listen to how God is calling us to serve, how God is calling us to engage with our neighbor, and how God is calling us to commit to offering a first-fruits financial gift, not so we can receive a return, but knowing that God will take those gifts and produce fruit beyond our wildest dreams.


Pastor Mike

Bible Basics

Generosity of Spirit – from The Book of Joy

In April 2015, Archbishop Desmond Tutu visited His Holiness the Dalai Lama in exile in India. Their dialogue and interactions became The Book of Joy: Lasting Happiness in a Changing World (Avery: 2016)  Their book emphasizes the value of a generosity of spirit.

When we practice a generosity of spirit, we are in many ways practicing all the other seven pillars of joy.  In generosity, there is a wider perspective (italics added), in which we see our connection to all others. There is a humility that recognizes our place in the world and acknowledges that at another time we could be the one in need, whether that need is material, emotional, or spiritual. There is a sense of humor and an ability to laugh at ourselves so that we don’t take ourselves too seriously. There is an acceptance of life, in which we do not force life to be other than what it is. There is a forgiveness of others and a release of what otherwise might have been. There is a gratitude for all that we have been given. Finally, we see others with a deep compassion and a desire to help those who are in need. And from this comes a generosity that is “wise selfish,” a generosity that recognizes helping others as helping ourselves.

As the Dalai Lama put it, “In fact, taking care of others, helping others, ultimately is the way to discover your own joy and to have a happy life.” Near the end of their time together, Archbishop Tutu offered this blessing:  “Dear Child of God, you are loved with a love that nothing can shake, a love that loved you long before you were created, a love that will be there long after everything has disappeared. You are precious, with a preciousness that is totally quite immeasurable. And God wants you to be like God. Filled with life and goodness and laughter—and joy.

“God, who is forever pouring out God’s whole being from all eternity, wants you to flourish. God wants you to be filled with joy and excitement and ever longing to be able to find what is so beautiful in God’s creation: the compassion of so many, the caring, the sharing.  And God says, Please, my child, help me.  Help me to spread love and laughter and joy and compassion. And you know what, my child? As you do this—presto—you discover joy.  Joy, which you had not sought, comes as the gift, as almost the reward for this non-self-regarding caring for others.”

Click here to learn more about opportunities to serve!

We invite you to continue supporting one or more of these ministries as you are able. Please go to GET INVOLVED on our website for details. Thank you for continuing to live into God's mission!

  • Blankets for Project Linus
  • Clothing and textile donations for Project PLASE
  • FLC Altar Guild Worship Assistant
  • Donations for Grassroots Day Resource Center
  • Howard County Food Bank & Community Garden
  • Food on the 15th
  • Breath of God Lutheran Church
  • Clean cotton fabric/sheet donations to the Sewing Circle 
  • Virtual Food Drive
  • Community of St. Dysmas Congregants
  • Women and Children's Shelter/Soup Kitchen
First Evangelical Lutheran Church
Generosity Statement

We believe that we are created in the image of a loving, generous God who creates us to live in relationships of love and generosity.

We commit to living lives of generosity, welcoming, growing, and sharing in God's grace, and using the abundance God provides to meet the needs of others.

We invite all disciples to experience the joy of fearless generosity, giving our time, talents and treasure so that each of us, our community, and the world might be transformed through the ministries of First Lutheran Church.
First Evangelical Lutheran Church
Stewardship Ministry
3604 Chatham Road
Ellicott City, MD 21042
Office: 410-465-5977
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