2 Strange Letters

There are 2 strange letters

on your word I see

Their placement on the front

Doesn’t make sense to me

I am pretty good at reading

But these 2 don’t fit

They don’t describe what I see

It’s the meaning I don’t get

The first letter I have seen

In books and other things

The second is also familiar

But confusion is what it brings

The word is badly changed

And it doesn’t reflect the truth

It doesn’t show how I see you

Whether aged or in your youth

These 2 strange letters

Throw everything off track

They mess up your description

And set the meaning back

Without these intruders

The definition wonderfully fits

They initially seem harmless

But shatter hearts to bits

The letters are “I” and “M”

But I remind you they don’t work

The accuser uses them untruthfully

To diminish the Master’s work

The word in question is “perfect”

And in its purest form

Is how I look at you daily

Through sunshine, snow, or storm

Don’t let the enemy convince you

That you are not good enough

And that God can’t possibly love you

With all of your broken stuff

While you may be human

And lacking in many things

You are perfect; you are loved

You are a child of the King

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A Message to the Irreparably Broken

a-message-to-the-irreparably-brokenI sat in front of a couple who were so newly married that their rings still lacked any scuff. They were struggling desperately with issues that were not resolved prior to their marriage.

The wife wrestled with insecurities, anger, and disconnectedness. The husband dealt with denial and an inability to relate to his new bride. He felt as if he was being compared to past boyfriends, despised because of his lack of understanding, and he was frustrated because he felt as if something was being hidden from him. Both of these individuals were broken, and at the end of their ropes.

They said things to each other that could not be taken back, and things had escalated to the point of possible divorce.

As a young pastor, these type of situations make me feel so inadequate. It, however is part of my job, and a calling I have accepted. During these type of conversations and tense moments, I have to pray and trust that God will give me the words to say and hope that some amount of educational memories make their way to my tongue as I speak. This situation was one I have dealt with in the past, but every marital difficulty is like a snowflake. None are exactly the same.

As I inwardly prayed for God to guide my thoughts and speech I looked the wife in the eyes. These eyes were red from weeping, and her mascara was ruined. When I looked into her eyes, I saw pain and a little girl hiding behind a rock. If you know me very well, you know that sometimes God gives me the ability to look into the eyes of someone I am talking to and, I feel, God gives me a mental picture to illustrate what they are feeling. Obviously it is impossible to fully know what the pain feels like, but it helps when knowing what to say to start digging deeper into understanding the core issues. This beautiful lady that sat before me was dealing with deep insecurities, fear, and anger and, as I mentioned I saw a little girl hiding behind a rock. As If she was once hurt and was afraid it would happen again.

At that moment, I felt prompted by the Holy Spirit to ask her a question. A question that would be very risky, and, if I was completely off base, would embarrass me and damage my credibility as their pastoral counselor. “How old were you?” I inquired. She stopped crying and looked at me as if I had uttered a gibberish language. “What?” she answered. “I said…how old were you. How old were you when it happened?” Her eyes became wide and the tears began to flow. The crying became more and more intense and finally, after a little recovery, she spoke. “I was 15”.

Internally, I was extremely surprised that I hit the wound. Then, I continued. “Who did it?” The tears came again and she told me that her boyfriend at the time was the culprit.

This lovely young woman was raped. This was the root of her pain. It had caused a domino effect of shame and she felt as if she was irreparably broken because of what happened. The husband also had past issues that needed to be addressed. I explained that these past hurts had to be confronted and we set up a plan to move forward to address the situation.

I wish I could say that this marriage was fully restored because of my eloquent words and deep wisdom. It wasn’t. Eventually the couple went separate ways, and after this break up, the healing began. It took a few years for this woman to find healing and a healthy relationship. She allowed God to work through her, and even though the past is not erased, she found that the brokenness in her heart was less painful.

She was right. Her heart was irreparably broken. God, however, gave her a new heart that is whole.

I thank God for speaking to me that day. This is the second time something like this has happened in this context.

If you feel like you are broken beyond repair, remember that God wants you to be whole. There is hope for the broken. I promise. Help is available whether you believe it right now or not.

Love you all.

-Landon DeCrastos

The Church I Want to Lead | In Other Words

church doorI am a young pastor. I have limited experience on many levels, and because of that I know that there are not many who would give much weight to my words. Years ago, as a student, I could have told you what type of church I wanted to work in, and the type of people I wanted to minister to. I wanted to be a part of a church that had some history; that had thriving ministries, and had enough money in the bank to cushion any hardships that may come their way. I wanted plenty of people to pick from when it came to having a need for volunteers and I wanted a church that was progressive and valued new ideas. I had so many ideas (if money was no object and people were abundant of course). Back then, my idea of success revolved around shrinking seating space, and expanding offerings. In fact, if everything worked out well, then I may get into a church that had excellent music, incredible preaching, and a flexible congregation that really wanted to try new things.

Over a period of time, as I grew in confidence and knowledge, I began to have complaints. My first church was somewhat small, and didn’t really have much of a budget for the youth program I was leading so I often sat in my office and felt sorry for myself and blamed everything else for why my ministry wasn’t growing. I began to become jaded about the church for various reasons (they still sing from hymnals, they sat in pews, they needed new carpet, they didn’t have a very nice website). Surely all of these things PROVED they didn’t want to grow. If they valued ministy, then they would pay me more so I could do more things. I would sit around, in a mental autopilot, waiting for things to change so that “real ministry” could begin.

After being a youth pastor for a while and seeking more education, I started to realize the horrible faulty thinking I had come to believe. I realized I was the problem…not the old furniture or traditional music. It was ME. My heart and mind needed to conform to God’s.

Then, God called me to start a new church. At first, my thoughts revolved around ways this new congregation could be cutting edge, different, and set apart from any other church in town. If it was different and exciting, then people would come to my church instead of any other. If you know me now, you may be surprised that this was my thought process, because over the last 5 years God has completely transformed my heart and now I desire to lead a church much different than the one I used to crave. I have a new desire.

Now… I want to lead a church who:

…cares more about the broken than looking all put together.

…welcomes the single parent, widow, and widow and desires to be a source of encouragement for them

…prays for those who do not look, smell, or sound like them and embraces them with compassion

…will give up their comfort and be sacrificial for the advancement of the kingdom

…will put God’s word into action

…will do things that are bad for business but great for relaying the gospel

…will welcome the abused, rejected, oppressed, and hated

…will hate sin so much that they are willing to be grace agents

…will seek what sacrifice truly means

…will welcome the sinner no matter what their sin, and treat them with respect and dignity

…will follow God into the darkness; ready to be the light

…will do everything they can to see other churches grow

…will accept the fact that the Church must be real and transparent

…will not be a different person in the seats than at home

…want passionate worship instead of manufactured praise

…want to serve more than want to be served

…understand that “being fed” means feeding too

…want imperfection in-process instead of processed perfection

…desire God’s will to be done no matter church size, money in the bank, or political climate

…look at the world around them with love instead of bitterness

THAT is the church I want to lead.

I’m sure glad I do 🙂

-Landon DeCrastos

Fixing our Welcome

Too often, people inside the church are looked at as people who put on a great front on Sundays. These people may go to work, school, or other places of business and show no signs of faith in the world. To some, faith in God is a hobby that is celebrated and exercised at church. This, at least, it what seems to be the case. This seems logical, but it may be a false assumption for many. Looking deeper into the life of a Christian who behaves in this way may provide a broader explanation about the imbalance of their faith and behavior.

What I have found is that there are many who come to church and love being there because it is the only time during the week in which they can find encouragement, positive attitudes, and a safe place to escape from life. It is a controlled environment where they can be themselves, be taught, and celebrate. They don’t have to be an employee, ex-spouse, or the prey of a creditor…they can just… be. These people come to church with wounds, addictions, hurts, no money, evil self talk (lies that they tell themselves), and the night before they just had a terrible fight with a family member. This person comes to church to be distracted.

What if we as Christians, and regular church attenders, understood this about those participating in worship each week? We have been there. We know there is hope. Our job is to be open to the times in which we can help be a part of this distraction, and to guide people out of their shame and brokenness. We are called to be compassionate, but no one is called to stay broken.

Let’s help lead people away from their hurts, and into healing arms.

-Landon DeCrastos