The Lord is My Shepherd

by Erin Bird

For several weeks this past fall, I found myself repeatedly going back to Psalm 23. In fact, I spent much of my annual spiritual retreat in November contemplating it and praying through this famous psalm. I found the poetic words comforting, yet convicting. So I would like to take the next several weeks here on the blog to walk through possibly the most famous psalm of the 150 psalms God collected into the canon of Scripture.

If you aren’t familiar with Psalm 23, I highly encourage you to take a moment to read all of it right now. You know what, even if you are extremely familiar with it or even have it memorized, still take a moment to read it. (It will only take you about 45 seconds to read.)

So now that you’ve just read this beautiful poem, let’s talk about Batman. 🙂

The Butler Shepherd

A couple of weeks before Christmas, LeAnn and I decided to try a new TV series to watch on Netflix. After considering several options, we settled on “Gotham,” a series that looks at the Batman origin story from the viewpoint of James Gordon, a rookie Gotham police detective. (We only saw the first episode as I was fasting from Netflix for the 21 Days of Prayer. So if you’ve seen the series and have determined it isn’t very good, tell us before we invest much time into the series!)

In the first (and only episode) we watched, young Bruce Wayne (who becomes Batman in his adult years) witnessed his mega-wealthy parents get robbed and murdered in an alleyway. When Detective Gordon and his partner arrive on the scene, Gordon walks over to a scared Bruce to talk and calm the boy’s nerves. As the detective and the boy talk about what happened, the Wayne family butler, Alfred, arrives on the scene. As soon as Bruce sees Alfred, he immediately leaves the conversation with Gordon, and runs into the arms of the one person he thinks can comfort him in his grief.

Sheep Run to the Shepherd

If you read Psalm 23a moment ago, you see it begins with the phrase, “The Lord is my Shepherd.” Like Bruce running to Alfred for comfort, God wants us to run to Him for comfort and protection. A good shepherd always makes sure his sheep get enough food and rest, as well as protect the sheep from predators. A sheep learns that its shepherd is someone who cares for it and provides for it, and so a wise sheep will stay close to the shepherd and even run to the shepherd, knowing that its well-being is tied to this man who devotes his life to its care.

Sheep on mountainside as sun bursts through the cloudsSo for David to start his famous song with the words, “The Lord is my Shepherd,” he is acknowledging that God is a loving, ever-present, caring God. David is reminding himself and his readers that if one is going to find comfort in life, the best place to run is into the arms of a caring shepherd.

So will you run to God today?  If you participated in the 21 Days of Prayer, running to Him simply looks like the continuation of what you’ve been doing here at the start of 2020.  But if you haven’t been making it a practice or habit yet, tune into His protecting arms in prayer. When struggles come, simply breathe in a deep breath, and as you exhale, remind yourself, “The Lord is my Shepherd.”

We’ll talk about the “Lord as our Shepherd” even more next week.

21 Days of Prayer to Start 2020

Happy New Year!
Tomorrow brings the year 2020, and with it, the 21 Days of Prayer. To help you connect with Christ during the first twenty-one days of 2020, we encourage you to:

1. Fast from something

For the past month, we have been encouraging you to ask God to show you something in your life you have allowed to come before Him and to fast from it for the 21 Days. So if you haven’t made a plan yet for what to fast, take a moment today to decide what to cut out for the next three weeks. Perhaps it should be sugar, TV, social media, the news, or even feed for one day each week.
If you’ve already made a decision from what to fast, plan to begin tomorrow. And share with at least one person, whether your spouse or someone from your Growth Group, from what you have chosen to fast.

2. Use the Daily Devotionals

Every day during this 21-day spiritual journey, we will send you a devotional to your inbox. If you already get our weekly News & Notes email, you’re all set! If not, sign up here. Each email will have thoughts from Pastor Erin, a Scripture passage (usually a chapter of the Bible) to read, and a suggested prayer that is designed to simply start your own prayers with God.

If you’d rather receive the devotionals in podcast form (to listen while you drive to work or get ready for your day), add this URL into your favorite podcasting app:

3. Come to the Sunday Worship Gathering

Lastly, because this is a church-wide spiritual journey, do everything you can to make it to our Worship Gatherings at Droste Hall at 10:00 am each Sunday. We will be studying the Lord’s Prayer and the context around it each Sunday in our Teach Us To Pray series. I really think it is going to help your prayer life as we go through these twenty-one days together.

Two Other Notes:

#1. If you have a friend who is not part of the Riverwood family, but would have interest in being part of the 21 Days of Prayer & Fasting with us, send them this link.
#2. We will be taking a break from the blog during these 21 Days. We are pouring our time in creating content into the daily devotionals, Growth Group guides, and our Sunday Worship Gatherings. We’ll resume posting on the blog on Jan 23.

Worship Fully during Advent

Hark! The herald angels say, “the Riverwood News & Notesis here today!” (Dec 19, 2019)

Worship Fully

For the month of December, we are doing a series here in the News & Notes on three of the four tenets of Advent Conspiracy. We have looked at these four tenets in the past, but because of the cultural pressure around us, it is worth us considering them again. If you are unfamiliar with Advent Conspiracy, head to their site and read the blog post called “Advent Conspiracy 101.”  And even if you are thoroughly familiar with all four tenets of Advent Conspiracy, I strongly encourage you to read today’s email so you can be reminded of how to make the most of this Christmas season.

In Christ,


Worship Fully
from the Advent Conspiracy team

For many of us, the time of year when focusing on Christ should be the easiest, is often the hardest. Our calendars are full of activities, the to-do lists are getting longer, the stores are getting busier, and an overwhelming stress has creeped into our hearts.

So how do we get back to the heart of the Christmas narrative?

For starters, worship. We see the tenet of Worship Fully as being the cornerstone tenet. We believe that when our hearts are oriented towards Christ, the rest of the tenets will fall into place. The way we spend, give, and love will radically change when it comes from a place of true worship.

Each year Advent brings another opportunity to worship the miracle of the Incarnation when God revealed himself to people in a new way. If you read the Christmas narrative, nearly every character who encountered the infant King had the same response: worship.

Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today, in the town of David, a Savior has been born to you; He is the Messiah, the LORD.
Luke 2:10-11

Nativity SceneExcitement, anticipation, hope—each of these emotions swell around the object of our dearest affection. The reality is that we spend our time and energy on what matters most to us. Notice what you’re spending your time and energy on. Is it drawing you closer to God or is it distracting you from something else?

Here’s a tough question: Does the way we spend our time, money, and energy testify that we worship God incarnate?  Sit with that today.  Ask God to open your eyes and heart to the truth.

Some activities to help you Worship Fully:

  • Invite a friend over and see how they’re doing. Listen well.
  • Have your kids read the Christmas story while setting up the nativity.
  • For one night, unplug from all technology and social media. In a world full of noise, be intentional about quiet time.
  • Participate in the daily Advent devotionals or listen to the audio version of the Bible.
  • Turn the radio off in the car and spend 10 minutes thanking God for the ways He has blessed you.
  • Listen to the Advent Conspiracy playlist on Spotify or a favorite Christ-centered Christmas album. Let the lyrics settle into your heart.

Originally published at

Give More this Christmas

Give More (Kids holding peace signs))

Give More

For the month of December, we are doing a series here in the News & Notes on three of the four tenets of Advent Conspiracy. We have looked at these four tenets in the past, but because of the cultural pressure around us, it is worth us considering them again. If you are unfamiliar with Advent Conspiracy, head to their site and read the blog post called “Advent Conspiracy 101.”  And even if you are thoroughly familiar with all four tenets of Advent Conspiracy, I strongly encourage you to read today’s email so you can be reminded of how to make the most of this Christmas season.

In Christ,



Give More
from the Advent Conspiracy team

We’ve talked about rebelling against consumerism by spending less but now we’re encouraging you to give more…Is that a contradiction? Nope! Giving more isn’t about giving more toys, more gadgets, more clothes, more gift cards, more stuff.

God is calling us to give more intentionally and relationally. That means giving more of our time, our energy, our memories, our talents, our presence. It’s both. Spend less money and give more of yourself to the ones you love.

smiling kidsWe believe the best gifts celebrate a relationship. Think back on the most meaningful gift you’ve ever received. Chances are that there is a story and a relationship that was connected to that gift. Now try and remember all of the gifts you were given last year…For most of us that’s hard to do.

It sounds obvious, yet we seem to have drifted away from this liberating, straightforward truth: The Father gave His one and only Son. God’s answer for the world’s problems has never been material things. God did not give us more stuff – even good stuff like work, food, or health. He gave us Himself. The most priceless and personal gift of all!

The Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us. We have seen His glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. – John 1:14

Relational giving means that we think about the other person – who they are and what they care about. We focus more on giving our undivided presence and less on a pile of presents under the tree. This takes time and effort on our part. These kinds of gifts often require planning, but you’ll hardly be able to wait until Christmas to give such a gift!

When we give relationally during the Advent season, this is what we remember: it’s an opportunity to worship as we remind each other of the gift that was given for our sake. If we can resist the trap of giving easy gifts, and reject the assumption that giving expensive gifts is the best way to express love, something else might begin to happen. Our kids, family, neighbors, and coworkers will watch us celebrate Christmas differently, and through our actions they will hear the good news of the Gospel.

Some ideas to help you Give More:

  • Check out our list of relational gift ideas.
  • If you’re overwhelmed, start small. Choose one person on your list to give a relational gift to.
  • On Christmas morning, turn off your cell phone. Take a couple hours to be fully present with your family and focus on the people God has put in your life.
  • Invest in experiences you can share. Sign up for dance lessons, go camping, plan a vacation, take cooking classes.
  • Pass down memories. Make a recipe book or photo album to give to your family.
  • Get a blank journal and write notes and prayers to your kids.
  • Give a copy of your favorite book to a friend and then meet up for coffee and discuss it. Then switch and read their favorite book.
  • Give someone a gift that relieves a burden: babysitting money, help out with yard work, make a meal.
  • Give the gift of hospitality. Invite a new family over for dinner and games.
  • Do an activity with your kids – puzzles, jewelry making, baking, hiking, fishing, sports. Be present.

Originally published at

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