Greater Things

Dear Spirit of Grace,

“2018” – Welcome to a New Year Spirit of Grace!

‘Greater Things’ really jumped out to me from the gospel last Sunday as having important significance for Spirit of Grace for this upcoming year.

In John 1:43-51, Jesus described to Nathanael who he was and that had such a great impact on Nathanael — to be seen and known and understood by Jesus — that he exclaimed ‘Wow, you are Jesus – the Son of God’ and Jesus said back to him (paraphrasing of course) – ‘yeah, I know you and love you and when you follow me and you will see even GREATER THINGS than this experience right now!

This year ahead is also about seeing GREATER THINGS – when we are connected to Jesus, and when we use eyes of faith to see and experience life, then we are part of the GREATER THINGS God is always doing in, with and among us.

2018 marks the 10th Anniversary year of Spirit of Grace! – Can you believe it?  What a year ahead for GREATER THINGS.  Together with the council, we’ve themed this “The Turn-Around Year” – a year to jump into ministry in new ways (stay tuned!); a year to launch worship in a new facility shared with Plato Academy @ 8812 Old County Road 54, a year to become financially balanced and move into greater and greater experiences of mission, just a few are listed below:

Lent, of course, is around the corner – the season of the church year to reflect, review, re-access and perhaps also re-connect in a fresh or deeper way with who Jesus is and what difference that makes in our lives and in our world – Lent is the focused opportunity to have that ‘Nathanael Experience.’

Easter Celebrations will include Sonrise Worship at Gulf Harbors Beach! – as well as worship at the North Campus and, currently, progress is clipping along to have our 1st worship service in the newly opened worship/event center at 8812 Old County Road 54! – GREATER THINGS!!!

ELCA Youth Gathering is upcoming in the very end of June/first of July – 8 youth/young adults from SoG are going to Houston – they will experience GREATER THINGS of faith active with 30,000+ youth their own age, serving, singing, playing and growing.

With gratitude to God for all the GREATER THINGS that are underway – Jesus, let us see you clearly and be known by you through these greater things!

See you in worship,

Pr. Rita Gardner Tweed, Lead Pastor,

Spirit of Grace Lutheran Church


Advent is Here!

Advent is here!

Let the waiting and preparation begin in these fast weeks before Christmas.  Of course, one of the central themes and activities in Advent is waiting, and preparing, and being alert.  Interesting that a considerable part of life already includes waiting, whether or not it’s the Advent season.  We can be waiting for the test results to come in.  Waiting to graduate.  Waiting to get a driver’s license.  Waiting in line to check out at the grocery store.  Waiting at traffic lights for soooooo long.  Waiting for the anesthesia to wear off so your loved one will wake up.  Waiting till the next check comes in.  Waiting for ‘it’ — whatever that ‘it’ is.  And since we are often times so involved and caught up in waiting for ‘it’ there’s quite likely the chance we could miss it.  Afterall, hasn’t it been said many times before that “life happens when you are making other plans.” Similarly, while you are waiting for ‘it’ there’s a great likelihood that you could miss ‘it’ happening right in the middle of your “wa-’it’-ing”. That’s when we hear ourselves say something like: ’I can’t believe this time went by so fast, and I missed ‘it’ — in your Advent waiting, be sure to be fully present to this day, this moment, this opportunity, this chance to bless someone else, this precious gift of life that is yours, graced by God, to use each and every day.

See you in worship,      Pr. Rita Gardner Tweed, Lead Pastor, Spirit of Grace Lutheran Church


Live Generously

Dear Congregation & Friends,

Where does the phrase “and a child shall lead them” come from & what does it mean?  It comes from Isaiah 11:6 – the verse says the lion shall lie down with the lamb, meaning that those in opposition to one another will come together and that the child shall lead them in the way of peace; that peace between individuals, strangers, parties, neighbors, countries can bridge our differences and lead us to finding common ground while not losing who we are – the lion remains a lion, the lamb remains a lamb, but they are brought together in the way of peace.

I’ve used this phrase, “and a child shall lead them” with a different meaning that actually stretches beyond the scriptural context – maybe you have, too.  I’ve used this phrase when a child says or does something with ‘wisdom beyond their years’ that can inspire us adults.  I’ve used it as a reminder for us to be open to the presence of and insight of children among us, as well as those with a child-like spirit among us – they can lead us and teach us with freshness and fresh eyes.  Well, even remembering that it’s a stretch beyond Isaiah’s writing, maybe we can still be inspired by the children and child-like spirits in our midst – they can refresh & inspire us – as with this story below that really happened during worship at Spirit of Grace:

One of our folks shared:  “As the ushers we’re collecting the offering, one of our SoG children who was sitting beside me, reached in his pocket and pulled out a crumpled dollar bill.  He looked up at me and said, “May I give this?”  “Of course,” I replied.  He hopped down from his chair and followed the usher to the last row.  He reached up and put his crumpled dollar bill in the offering plate, and turned around with this big smile beaming over his face.  When he got back to his chair next to me, I gave him a hug and told him how much God loves him and his generous heart.  It came to my mind, if only we could give as joyfully as a child.

In November, we will look again at what it means to “Live Generously” and share with joy our tithes and offerings to God.  . . .and a child shall lead them.

Living Generously with You,

Pr. Rita Gardner Tweed, Lead Pastor

Spirit of Grace Lutheran Church


We Survived Hurricane Irma!

Hello Hurricane Survivors!

And Survivors you are!  Everyone had to determine their safe place location to ‘weather the storm’ and everything had to be secured or brought inside. Many SoG folks headed out of the state. Quite a few went to evacuation shelters! Many stuck it out in their homes with hurricane shutters, extra    water, extra food, batteries or a generator. Everyone I talked to was praying mightily for all in this storms path.  The North       campus was secured as much as possible with the playground sails taken down, a gutter fixed and the musical instruments & a/v equipment all covered.

It was so good to get re-united in worship the weekend after the hurricane. Thankfully the losses in our area were minimal in relation to how hard hit were other parts of the state, the islands and Puerto Rico. Three, at least, of our SoG folks were with their Assisted Living &/or Nursing Home patients putting in 21 hour+ days/nights throughout the storm transporting people to safe shelter in a different area of the state and back again. One of our 90+ year olds who lives in an 8 story building helped 4 other seniors navigate the stairs to get to safety in their building. Several of you joined together in evacuation shelters, some with pets, or helped someone get to or stay in a shelter. There were many, many stories of faith in action before, during and after Hurricane Irma.

Those of us less affected by the hurricane are blessed to be a blessing to those needing to recover and rebuild. To give to Hurricane Response through the ELCA Lutheran Disaster Response go online to   Remember, 100% of donations go to on the ground response – the administrative overhead is the lowest through the church – Be the church together through Lutheran Disaster Response.

Hurricane Irma was the impetus for the SoG Disaster Response Plan – Many thanks to the leaders below, who quickly agreed to be contacts for about 12-15 households to see how folks made it through the storm and who needed help. They all reported to me throughout the week – I’m thankful for your leadership and the multiple efforts you made to reach folks after the storm. This was a quickly assembled plan to be followed up by a more thoroughly constructed plan of neighborhood teams with a neighborhood captain.  Deb has been working on plotting the locations of our congregation’s homes with the use of MissionInsite so that neighborhood(s) teams can be formed.  If you are willing to serve as a Neighborhood Captain for the SoG Disaster Response Plan – please let me know!

See you in Worship with grateful hearts,

Pr. Rita Gardner Tweed,

Lead Pastor, Spirit of Grace