Redeeming Halloween

We are taking a one-week break from our “How to Follow Jesus at Work & School” series to share a “rerun” of an post we ran last year about hosting a 5-minute Trick or Treat Party. If you are part of the Riverwood family, will you join us in being a blessing to your neighborhood on Oct 31?


by Erin Bird

I don’t like admitting this, but I hate Halloween. Some of you may feel the same.

The reason I don’t want to admit I have a distaste for this “holiday” is because it makes me sound like some sort of grinch or Negative Nancy. I know bunches of people who love Halloween. They think it’s cute to see kids dress up in costumes. They love the cooler temps of Fall. It’s a great excuse to get together with friends and be silly. And they like the feeling of being scared when watching a horror movie or walking through a haunted house. To them, it’s all in good fun.

But as I grow older as a follower of the life-giving Jesus and see the brokenness of our world, I don’t like that All Hallow’s Eve has become a celebration of evil, fear, and even death. I know lots people don’t see Halloween that way, but when vampires and zombies are the mascots of the holiday, you have to realize the truth of what this day is truly celebrating.

As I’ve wrestled with my feelings about Halloween, I’ve tried to figure out how to respond:

  • Do I just say nothing and go with the flow of culture? (This would definitely be the easiest route.)
  • Do I rebel and refuse to participate in any way? (I could be like some of my other Halloween-hating friends and wish people a Happy Reformation Day – this is the 500th anniversary of the Reformation after all!).
  • Or could I somehow possibly “redeem” the day? Could I somehow come alongside the culture and bring something different?

Taking the Third Option

This third option takes some creativity and work. It is the most difficult of the three as it requires me to live in the tension of grace and truth. But for me, this seems like a Jesus-centered approach to the day.

This is why for the past several years, my family has held a “5-minute Trick or Treat Party” out of our garage. There’s nothing scary about it (no one jumps out at you). Rather, it’s well-lit, festive, and safe. But it welcomes people exactly as they are (even if they wear a scary costume).

Because I want to see you live like Jesus lived, I invite you into this grace and truth tension over Halloween as well. I encourage you to host your own 5-minute Trick or Treat Party , or partner up with someone else. It will take a little bit of prep work, but it will TOTALLY pay off!

Here’s how to host your own 5-minute Trick or Treat Party:

  • Sweep out your garage and do some general cleaning/tidying up (if you are really OCD, you can use black plastic tarp to cover the walls).
  • Use a large tarp to cover the entrance to your opened garage door. Be sure to leave an opening for people to enter.
  • Make a sign that says, “Come on in for a 5-minute Trick or Treat Party!”
  • Have at least two games that kids can play to “earn” their candy. (An additional idea: If you have a card table, set it up with some simple crafts like coloring or leaf rubbings.)
  • Have a food table with brownies, cookies, popcorn, apple cake, or whatever desserts/treats you want to serve.
  • Prepare hot chocolate or hot apple cider to serve to cold parents and kids.
  • Smile a lot and welcome everyone who enters!

Depending on how messy your garage is to start, it will probably take about 2-3 hours to set-up, and an hour to clean-up. (Hint: Do the work on Sunday afternoon the 29th!)

But trust me: your “party” will be a HUGE hit. The work will be worth it. The kids will love it, the parents will be glad to get out of the cold for a couple minutes, and you will help create a positive experience in the neighborhood.

If you simply can’t host a party because your home is not in a high-traffic neighborhood, or you have small children and want extra help, or you can’t even park your own car in your garage, then connect up with another Riverwood family and do it together!

At Riverwood, we want to be a blessing to our community. Hosting a “5-minute Trick or Treat Party” is a super simple way to create a positive experience for your neighbors that just might help you connect with them a little more. And redeem Halloween just a little bit in the process.

It’s All About Jesus

by Erin Bird

Wow! It seems November is flying by! The month is half over, Thanksgiving is just a week away, and then Christmas chaos begins!

But this brings up an important Riverwood news item. Our Advent Series this year is called Do Christmas Different. Rather than just “do” Christmas the same old stress-filled way, we are going to look at how to truly make this season less about holiday hectic-ness and more about worshiping Jesus. If a friend, neighbor, or co-worker makes a comment about the chaos of December, invite them to a Riverwood Worship Gathering any Sunday between Nov 27 and Dec 18 as we dig in to the Scriptures and discover a different way to “do” Christmas!

Thanksgiving Worship & Potluck

Speaking of Sundays, this week, Nov 20, we are having our annual Thanksgiving Worship Gathering. The kids will join the adults as we sing a bunch of songs, hear some Scripture, pray together, and open the mic up to anyone who wants to publicly give thanks to God.

And then we’ll enjoy a potluck together. Be sure to bring a main dish as well as a side dish and/or dessert to share. Riverwood will provide the place settings and the drinks. I’m looking forward to it!

The End of Our Mission

Now to this week’s post. We’ve been walking through Riverwood’s mission statement here on the blog. Here’s the mission statement in its entirety:

To invite the spiritually disconnected to find and follow Jesus.

So far, we’ve talked about invitation, what it means to be spiritually disconnected, and defined the words “find” and “follow.”

Which means this week we get to talk about the most important word in the entire mission statement: Jesus.

At Riverwood, we truly are all about Jesus. We talk about being Jesus-centered. Most every Sunday we celebrate communion “in remembrance of Him.” We sing to Him and about Him every week. Our Growth Groups talk about following Him. We aim to make Jesus the center of everything we do at Riverwood.

But why focus on Jesus? Are we denying the Trinity with this over-emphasis on Christ? I don’t think so. Let me give you a couple reasons why we focus so heavily on the Son of God.

In Iowa, many people believe in God. Because of this belief, many would even say they are “Christians.” But if you probe further, many don’t really know Jesus. They know about Him, but He doesn’t occupy a central part of their life. But when someone truly meets Jesus, their life is radically changed. They no longer just believe in God, they have a relationship with their Creator.

Second, because God the Father is pleased with Jesus, and the Holy Spirit reveals Jesus to be the Son of God, we want to imitate the Father and Spirit – pointing to Jesus as the only way to the Father, pleased with who He is and what He has done for us through the cross and grave.

This is why Riverwood is all about Jesus. We want to help the spiritually disconnected find Him, to see Him for who He really is. And we want to help all people follow Him, to become like Him in the way they love and live.
So no matter where you are at in your spiritual journey, we want to help you become more Jesus-centered, and invite you to help our Riverwood family do the same.

Finding Jesus Everyday

by Erin Bird

Before I get to this week’s main article, let me remind you to set your clocks back one hour as you head to bed this Saturday night. That’s right, Daylight Savings Time ends, so enjoy getting that hour back that was stolen from you this past Spring.

Carry On

Let’s continue with our series here on the blog about Riverwood’s mission. Once again, our mission is…

To invite the spiritually disconnected to find and follow Jesus.

We’ve looked at the “invite” and “spiritually disconnected” segments of our mission, which means we are ready for the word “find”.

Finding Jesus

If you attend a Worship Gathering or have a conversation with me, you will hear me use the words “find and follow” together. On the surface, “find” refers to evangelism and “follow” to discipleship.

(Side note: I view “evangelism” (sharing Jesus with others) as merely a part of “discipleship” (becoming like Jesus). In order to become like Jesus, you have to first hear about Him and understand the significance of the gospel.

What we all need, whether we are followers of Jesus yet or not, is to “go deeper” with Jesus. For some, “going deeper” is making the initial decision to follow Jesus, while for others “going deeper” is, for example, reading their Bible, or serving their neighbor, or helping plant a church. “Discipleship” is merely taking your next step in obedience. We are all at a different place in our spiritual journey, so your next step will look different than someone else’s. But that’s what the Holy Spirit is enabling us to do – take our next step toward Jesus, whether that’s our first step or 400th step.)

While I normally tie “find and follow” together (and will continue to do so), today I want to do it a bit differently and focus just on the word “find.”

Let’s be honest with ourselves: Our sight is often on the things immediately around us. We are physical beings with busy schedules and a variety of relationships, living within a loud culture shouting to us through our TVs, newspapers, Facebook feeds, and water cooler conversations.

This means we don’t always see the spiritual. We give so much attention to the things of this earth that we miss the divine.

So even if you are already a Jesus-follower, you still need to “find” Jesus. And the great news is that He is all around you! You can “find” him:

[list type=unordered extra=]
[list_item]In a sunset[/list_item]
[list_item]In a movie or great book[/list_item]
[list_item]In the lyrics of a song[/list_item]
[list_item]In a great painting[/list_item]
[list_item]In times of prayer[/list_item]
[list_item]In silence[/list_item]
[list_item]In your personal times of Bible reading[/list_item]
[list_item]In a Growth Group discussion[/list_item]
[list_item]In a beautiful landscape[/list_item]
[list_item]And so much more![/list_item]

Colossians 1:17 tells us:

[H]e is before all things, and in him all things hold together.

This means Jesus is constantly with you and around you (just as He said), holding ALL things together. So I encourage you, keep your spiritual eyes open. Don’t let your sight be filled simply with your schedule, to-do list, and the nightly news. Instead, look for Jesus. Find Him. And have open eyes to see where He is at work.

Because as you find Jesus everyday, it will fill you with wonder and awe at the majesty of God!


by Erin Bird

We just finished up going verse by verse through Romans 12 here on the blog. Now I want to take a few weeks and walk through Riverwood’s mission statement, which is…

The mission of Riverwood Church is to invite the spiritually disconnected to find and follow Jesus.

Over the next 5 weeks, we will define those words and unpack this statement. And today, I want to examine the word “invite.”

The Power of Invitation

In January of this year, I said we would have a “theme” of invitation for 2016. I encouraged our church family to invite people into their lives – to Sunday Worship Gatherings, to their Growth Group, over to their house for dinner, etc. Invitation forces us to focus on others and not just get wrapped up into our own lives.

In the Bird house lately, it’s been very easy to get wrapped up in our own lives. Our lives have been so full with leading Riverwood, working another job, LeAnn doing a long-term sub at the high school, while both of us try to stay connected with our 4 kids and one “adopted” daughter… it makes life rather full! But as busy as our schedule has been, LeAnn and I have been trying to live a life of invitation. For instance, we’ve been using home football games to invite non-church-going friends over for dinner, and then head up to the high school to watch the Go-Hawks play.

So how can you adopt a culture of invitation in your life?

Here are some ideas:

[list type=unordered extra=]
[list_item]Food: Everyone eats 21 meals each week. How could you use one of those meals to invite someone to eat with you?[/list_item]
[list_item]Sundays: There are generic invite cards on the Give & Grow table every week. Grab some and use them to invite friends or family to attend a Worship Gathering with you.[/list_item]
[list_item]Activities: Use the hobbies and events you enjoy on your own and invite someone in to that activity. Invite someone to go fishing with you, or to a sporting event, or to an antique show.[/list_item]
[list_item]Kids: If you have neighbors with kids the same age, invite them over for a playdate. Or maybe your kids have classmates whose families don’t attend church – invite them for a Saturday night dinner and game time.[/list_item]

I could give more ideas, but basically invitation isn’t about adding something to your schedule, but rather use the things already in your schedule and invite others into that. As we are going to see this coming Sunday, Oct 23, God is calling you (if you are a Jesus-follower) to be a blessing to others.

So let’s take up Riverwood’s mission together and invite others into our lives so we can watch God do what only He can do.

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