Building Blocks Video Teaching series

At my church, I am doing a teaching series on Wednesday evenings called “Building Blocks”. The purpose of this series is to aquaint people with the structure, literary styles, and some major themes of scripture. It has been a fun experience.

Click below to go to the YouTube playlist for these videos.

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Midnight Snack!

midnight snack

For a little over a year, I have been regularly telling my children bedtime stories that I have been writing. As I have shared these stories with family and friends, they have encouraged me to keep a written record of the stories. So…today, I am creating a new category/ section on my blog called “Midnight Snack” just for these stories. I remember many of them, and I am going to ask my kids to help me remember the ones that may not immediately come to mind.

I am excited to share these narratives with you in the coming days! Stay tuned!

-Landon DeCrastos

You Are Not Who You Think You Are

You Are Not Who You Think You AreHave you ever met someone who is always incredibly negative about life? I’m not talking about someone who is suffering with depression or living in a dark chapter…I am talking about a person who refuses to look on the bright side. It can be exhausting. People in this situation tend to convince themselves that reality is different than what is obvious. They look at their experiences through a different lens than most.

When something is apparent to one person, and it seems that another is almost blinded to the truth, frustration can rise, and relationships can be damaged. If a person in this situation embraces pride, then they tend to further distance themselves from others. As distance grows, isolation breeds contempt and bitterness. These traits can rewire a person’s mind to believe things that are simply untrue.

There is a fundamental temptation in the heart of many, if not all, of people who have chosen to follow Jesus. The pattern is almost written as a common script. The individual will make great strides in their life and see great transformation. They may live on a wonderful trajectory for a significant period of time, and then something happens that derails their progress. Perhaps they give into an old temptation, or stumble over a struggle they thought they left behind. In this scenario, there are three ways that a person can go. The first way is to acknowledge the mistake and step forward into growth. The second way is to embrace defeat and punish themselves for a relatively short time. The last way complicates things a bit. It is the circumstance in which a person convinces themselves that they are “just that way” and they will “never change”.

As a pastor, it can be so frustrating to interact with a person who has taken a slight detour in their faith, and for them to be convinced that “this is who they truly are”. Why do we do this? Why do we think our bad behavior is our true self and any previous good behavior is nullified? This is like getting the flu and convincing yourself and that you are always meant to be sick. People can change, and we are meant to change. We are meant to grow and flourish, and we must learn from our mistakes.

There are people who I have met and truly look up to with amazing stories of how God has navigated their lives. They can tell you tales of how they were completely different when they were younger, and their development can be compared to a caterpillar and a butterfly.

God loves you exactly the way you are, but He loves you too much to not cultivate progress in your life. I guarantee you, when you are going through a rough patch in your life, and you have convinced yourself that you will “always be this way” …you are not who you think you are. Sometimes it is easy to believe the lie that a mistake can send you backwards when, in actuality, it is more like just “taking the scenic route”. Now, this is not an excuse for cultivating horrible behavior, but perhaps it can bring hope to someone who is feeling lost.

You are not who you think you are. Remember, you can be better.

-Landon DeCrastos

In Defense of Ritual

ritual defenseProfessionals train and sacrifice countless hours to perfect their craft. It doesn’t matter if the area of expertise is in the arts, entertainment, sports, engineering, medicine or public service…the individual that betters themselves will be prepared for the most extreme challenges when it comes to their prowess. When firefighters work out, and keep their body fit, the point is to build strong muscles, so they are ready in case an unfortunate circumstance occurs, and someone needs rescued. These men and women perform repetitious exercises to not only build strength, but to build consistency and familiarity in a variety of tasks. Sports players do this same thing. A baseball player will swing their bat hundreds of times in a row, so that their mind and body is in sync. Actors are no different. These folks meditate over their lines until they are performing them in their sleep. In whatever situation, this idea is called “building muscle memory”.

Ask just about anyone on the street if they think that building muscle memory is a good thing, and most would agree that it is prudent. These same people may even recall a favorite moment in their discipline of choice and tell you how that person who hit the game-winning home run or the violinist who performed the flawless concerto inspired them to be better in their profession.

As great of an idea this concept is, for some reason, there is still significant backlash regarding this practice in our spiritual lives. People praise the soccer player that scores the winning goal but often look down on the Christian who has embraced ritual and tradition. It is so tempting to look at the life of an ancient early Christian or Jewish believer and dismiss their daily rhythms as archaic and meaningless. Sure, they may actually be meaningless, but that is not the fault of the practice, but perhaps the practitioner.

When we look in scripture, especially the Hebrew Bible (Old Testament), we see countless commands given by God to His chosen people. Some of these seem so foreign to the 21st Century believer, and for those who feel “deeply enlightened”, they may even seem counter intuitive. The fact is, God used ritual and tradition to build muscle memory…even though some of it may not have made immediate sense. This memory developed over many generations, not to keep His people busy, but to prepare them for the personification of holiness that would eventually come. He wanted to condition them to respond to His leading…to learn to step out into territory that felt unnatural. It was no different than learning basic motor skills as a child, and putting them all together as an adult to become a contributing citizen.

The more I read and think about building a life of ritual, the more I am drawn to the fact that our ancient mothers and fathers had it absolutely right. Perhaps, we do not have to mimic their every move, but I think, to be healthy we must develop a life of consistent rhythm. You can shake your fist at me, and yell “legalism” all you want…but it seems like we don’t even bat an eye when it comes to developing habits that are unhealthy for us. Do you have a habit or struggle that you go to regularly for comfort or solace? Get my point? How about developing habits of praise and worship? How about setting up things in your life that will be a reminder of God’s faithfulness? What about Holy repetition?

To be honest, whether the religious ritual is weekly worship, daily prayer, or sacred personal reading…the point is not for us to be entertained or stimulated. The point is to be reminded, and to put ourselves in a position in which obedience comes more naturally.

Now…in the name of Jesus…Go and be His disciples. Train and remember where he has brought you from.

Speaking of “where He has brought you from” …Do you ever forget about that? If you do, it is possible you really misunderstand what it means to grow…In my next blog post, I am going to explore that…stay tuned.

…to be continued.

-Landon DeCrastos

My Thoughts on Pain (Repost from 2011)

Being one that is chronically ill, pain becomes a multi-faceted word.  As of today, I am 27 years old and have undergone nearly 40 surgical procedures; with each one bringing me face to face with many types of pain.

As if that weren’t enough, two of my close friends, one I consider a true sister, passed away in as many years.

I learned at an early age, pain is a fixture in life.  In 1998, on my 14th birthday, I was in Madison, Wisconsin for a doctor’s appointment at a prestigious children’s hospital.  It was on that day that I was diagnosed with Lupus and kidney failure.  I was to immediately start IV steroidal and chemotherapy treatments.  Surprisingly enough, despite the physical pain, it was the emotional fallout that hurt the worst.  For a 14 year old girl, the nearly 80lbs the steroids helped me gain caused so much social damage, I would have gladly taken a million IV’s instead of facing my peers.  I was so overwhelmed with pain on every level, physical, emotional and spiritual that hearing the words “this is temporary” fell on deaf ears.

However, like most things during your teenage years, it was temporary.  Not my Lupus or kidney disease, mind you, but the pain in those moments was.  Yes, surgery is painful and most of the time, for quite a while – but, you heal.  Yes, using needles so large they should be illegal 3 times a week is painful – but after a few hours, they are removed.  Physical pain tends to be treatable.  Maybe not curable, but as a race, we humans can make it tolerable.  So when I was asked to share my thoughts on pain, my mind went the route I am most familiar with: physical pain.  That is the easy kind, the kind that, for me, eventually goes away.

But, the real pain for me comes from loosing two great friends.  One I learned passed away because she was a victim of murder; her spouse being the number 1 suspect.  The other, my very best friend, due to health complications on an Easter morning.  For me, these are pains I cannot shake.  They are pains I am promised will get lighter.  The are also pains that I am afraid to heal, because as I have learned from my experience with physical pain – healing hurts as well, if not more.

I could write a novel how to handle physical pain, but am clueless as to handle pain in this capacity.  On my closet mirror at home, I have written “Just because they are in Heaven, it does not mean they are separated from us, because we are all part of the Body of Christ.”  It was something my pastor here in Florida had once said in a sermon and it brings me comfort.

So, day by day, needle by needle, memory to memory – I heal a little bit more.  You think I would know by now that all healing, no matter the kind takes time – but those that know me best know how impatient I can be.  All I can do is thank God that He created the healing aspect of life; because He certainly wasn’t obligated to!  That along with knowing that we as Christians will undoubtedly experience total healing and the existence He intended for us with Him in Heaven – makes the pain all the more bearable.

-Kara Netzel

Pain Lessons

“Remember, in the end, it will be all right; if it’s not all right, it’s not the end.”

Ministry Sauce

Pain is an unavoidable part of life. Christians and non-Christians alike endure pain on a daily basis. Whether through circumstances, consequences, or external influences, the reality of pain is inescapable regardless of race, religion, gender, or any other human characteristic. Why, then, do Christians (and by Christian I mean someone truly bearing his Cross, and not only attending services and potlucks each Sunday) see pain as a positive aspect of life? What could lead a group of individuals whose endgame culminates in a painless, eternal world to value pain in an afflicted, temporary one? Who would choose to follow a man who famously said “take up your cross and follow me” (Luke 9:23), and why? If, as many world religions promise, there is no guarantee of eliminated or even reduced pain in Christianity, why choose it?

The simple reason is wisdom. While unavoidable, pain is also the most instructive part…

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Sometimes

Sometimes
You just have to say no
To the lies the enemy tries to bind you with…
To the thoughts that invade your mind
Say no to the negative thoughts
That try to steal your joy

When you are on that mountain of blessing
And overcome with bliss
In an instant you can come crashing down
All because of a thought

But you can handle it

It is your job to say no.
Those thoughts won’t win today
And I am stronger than you think I am
Stronger than yesterday
The devil does not know who he is dealing with
The “what ifs” will not be written on my heart today

Those old tricks won’t work
And if worse does come to worst
I will deal with it then
Because in my mountain top times
I have gained enough strength
To deal with the broken things
And to not overwhelm myself

I will endure and not be discouraged
For I know who walks with me
I always remember that
Ok…maybe not always
Maybe just
Sometimes

-Landon DeCrastos