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?

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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.

redeeming halloween2 350x196 - Redeeming HalloweenThis 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.

Work as Worship & Witness

by Jeff Willis

Two weeks ago, as we continued this series we’re calling “Following Jesus at Work & School,” Erin wrote: “If humans were made by God to work, then work can be worship. Joy can be found in a job. God can be glorified in a backyard garden, an office cubicle, a delivery truck, or a warehouse floor.” I want to take this thought a bit further.

Colossians 3:23-24 says,

“Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.”

This has been one of my life verses. I have done many things in my 45 years of living and held various jobs. Some were better and more enjoyable than others. (And some jobs were really difficult to get out the door to head to work!) God placed a call on my life to vocational ministry and I have never felt more joy, contentment, and peace than when I am doing what God has called me to and equipped me to do.

work as worship2 350x196 - Work as Worship & WitnessHowever, for the first time, I now work bi-vocationally so I can support my family financially while serving the church. In my “secular” job, it may not be that God “called me” to that place… or did He? As I have tried to live out my faith as a reflection of God’s light in my life to my co-workers, I have seen many things and had a few conversations that have shown evidence that God is using me to make a difference where I am. Seeds are planted and God will never let His Word or work return void.

Every day, I remind myself of this verse in Colossians and to Whom I belong. God has resourced me with an ability to be analytical, detailed, organized, and able to relate to people on a professional and personal level. I present to executive level clients on a weekly basis and am always striving to go above and beyond in even the smallest of things. When I give my best, even if things are difficult and not much fun, God brings about peace and fulfillment in all of it.

James 4:14 says that life is like a vapor (or mist). It appears for a little while and then vanishes. I want my life to count for something greater than just getting by and doing day by day. I want to leave a legacy and make an impact wherever I am.

When we as Jesus-followers go about our business life in a way that is pleasing to the Father, as if we were working directly for him, he is exalted. At the same time, others will notice and the world will be stirred to want some of what we have.

I pray you will join me and strive to be a better us. Work hard. Be respectful and courteous. Do everything with an aim at excellence. God deserves our best and has strategically placed you right where you are to have an influence on all who see and hear.

And yes, it’s true, God has created you for a purpose. Part of that purpose is to glorify Him through the talents and gifts He has given you to work a job well – whatever and wherever that may be.

Shaped by Work

By Erin Bird,

Glad to have you read along as we continue in our “Following Jesus at Work & School” series. (If you’ve missed the previous two articles, you can catch those on the Riverwood blog.)

Today, I want to start by talking about art.

My father earned an art degree in college and has created a wide variety of artworks. He’s done oil painting, watercolors, won awards for photography, created amazing wood creations for my kids, and even had the chance to blow glass. (It’s easy to see where my 17-year-old daughter gets her amazing talent.)

I remember as a little kid seeing my dad work on a potter’s wheel. As the wheel spun around and around, his fingers would mold and shape the clay into the pot that was in his mind’s eye. Sometimes, he would dip his hand in some water to add to the clay as it spun around, or take a sponge to shape the pot or add a bit of texture.

I was mesmerized. When I played with clay, it looked nothing like the pot on the wheel my dad was creating. His fingers had a way of shaping the clay into something more useful than the “snakes” I could fashion in 10 seconds. It was amazing to my little eyes.

We are Clay

Like my dad, God is an artist. (Just look at the heavens or the beauty of this earth!) God even describes himself as a potter as He points out in Jeremiah 18. And His clay is you. If you follow Jesus, then God is shaping you. But rather than make you a pot or bowl or ashtray, He is shaping you into the image of Jesus.

Romans 8:28-29 says…

“And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.”

Did you just skim over that verse or skip it entirely? If so, go back and read it. (I’ll wait.)

shaped by work2 350x196 - Shaped by WorkPowerful words, aren’t they? Two key things I want you to take away from these famous verses:
1. God uses ALL things for our good.
2. And that “good” is to conform us into the image of Jesus.

This means, if we apply these two verses to our jobs or school work, God uses our careers or time as students to shape and mold us to become more like Christ!

So don’t see homework as just a tedious chore to make a teacher or professor happy. Don’t view work as just a place to make money so you can afford to pay your mortgage or buy another toy or set of clothes. Instead, realize that God has you in this spot at this time in life to shape and mold you into the beautiful image of Jesus, so you will love like Jesus loved and live like Jesus lived.

Heavenly Father, help me to willingly climb on Your potter wheel, happily letting You use my job or class to do Your work of shaping me into the image of Jesus, Your Son and my Savior. Amen.

Another Thing

In case you haven’t noticed, it’s been a rough few weeks here in the U.S. We’ve battled Category 5 hurricanes, division over NFL anthem protests, and the worst mass shooting ever in Las Vegas. And this doesn’t even touch the natural and man-made devastation that has occurred in other countries. Would you join me in praying? Pray for

  • the victims and their families
  • the responders (police, medical teams, rescue workers)
  • the local churches who are bringing the gospel into these situations through their hands, words, and presence.

Pray also that you and I would be peacemakers right here in the Cedar Valley, to do what we can to love like Jesus in such a tumultuous time.

Work is Not a Curse

Let me jump right in as we continue our series on the blog on “How to Follow Jesus at Work & School.” Last week we looked at the idea that Jesus is to be our true boss. This week, I want to take you to Genesis 2:15 and help you see that “Work is Not a Curse.”

Work in the Garden

I know many people who hate their job. (Maybe you include yourself in this group.) Their job feels like a burden. They have to drag themselves in through the door to go to work. If these individuals are familiar with the Bible, they might believe that work was a result of Adam and Eve’s sin in Genesis 3.

But that’s not the case. Work was actually given to Adam by God before he and his wife ate of the forbidden fruit. Genesis 2:15 says…

“The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it.”

This verse comes before God created Eve, before God gave Adam the one rule (in verse 17), and well before Adam and Eve broke that one rule in Genesis 3. (Go ahead and open your Bible to substantiate my claim for yourself.)

work not curse2 350x196 - Work is Not a CurseThis means that work is not a consequence of sin. Mankind was actually created by God to work!

Now, let me say this: just because work was given to Adam before he disobeyed his Creator, doesn’t mean work escaped the consequence of Adam’s actions. We see God tell Adam in Genesis 3:17-19 that work will be hard. Before, it was to be filled with joy. After, it was going to be difficult.

But work itself was not the consequence. The difficulty of work was.

Which means, if you find yourself in a job you hate, it’s not because work is a curse. It’s probably because of a demanding boss, or unethical co-workers, or an unhealthy work culture, or the wrong fit for your God-given talents, gifts, and passions.

But it bears realizing that work itself is not a curse. Instead, we need to remember that humanity was created to work.

Work as Worship

Therefore, if humans were made by God to work, then work can be worship. Joy can be found in a job. God can be glorified in a backyard garden, an office cubicle, a delivery truck, or a warehouse floor. (Jeff, Riverwood’s worship pastor, is going to be write about this for the News & Notes in a couple of weeks).

So may you worship God today through your work, realizing your job is not a curse and your home project is not a punishment. God has created you for a purpose, and part of that purpose is to glorify Him through the talents and gifts He has given you to work a job well.