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

Kicking Goliath’s Butt

Kicking Goliath's Butt

I was in kindergarten. I remember this because it was the first year I was in school with all of the “big kids” at the elementary I attended. If you know me very well, you know that I am very much a peacemaker. I don’t jump into conflict, but if I needed to fight for my family I could unleash my powers for good. In every other situation, however, I am known as a gentle and even-headed human being. When I was a child, however, things were a little different. My brother and I grew up down south and fighting was often a way we greeted our friends. In other situations, it was a result of general horseplay that may have gone too far.

I had a temper when I was in elementary school. I was small for my age and I was picked on frequently, so that helped me develop an anger that could be accessed quickly. I was known for throwing some punches at kids who tried to give me a “wedgie” or even at those picking on someone else. I won’t go into detail about why that bothered me, because that will be for another blog post; but it did. My brother, knowing that I was idiotically fearless would stage fights on the playground, asking larger kids to challenge me to a dual.

Little did these kids know that they were about to battle with a champion…

One morning, I was dropped off to go to school. It was really no different than any other day. This 4th grader (who looked like he had been held back a couple of years) was bullying some kids before school, and it was only a matter of time before I was on his radar. He was about 12 feet tall and had a mullet that wasn’t even fashionable in 1989.  You could see the meanness in his eyes, and that day he was on a warpath. After pushing a kid down I happened to be in the area and he pushed me. I stood up to him, and he start throwing punches immediately. The Hulk in me came out but I couldn’t land many jabs with my wingspan and without a ladder. So, he knocked me down.

One thing you should know about me is that, when it was library day at school, I only checked out two types of books. The first type of book was anything dealing with learning more about animals, and the second were martial arts instruction books. Naturally, I was an expert in many fighting techniques because of this interest.

So, here was this mulleted giant of a human being, about to serve me my first defeat. I realized that the only way I was going to take him out was if I aimed low (don’t worry, this is not ending the way you think it is, so you are safe to keep reading). He threw a punch and I ducked, and swept my foot around to take his legs out from under him. He fell and the earth quaked. I was victorious. When he fell, though, he hit his head on a bench and cried. My heroism triggered a round of applause. Wouldn’t you know that this was the exact moment that Mrs. Mason (the school principal) walked up to witness Goliath being slain? He immediately pointed at me and the story he told sounded a little different than the one I experienced. Luckily, I only got a warning with a finger in my face. Other kids who were bullied by him had spoken the truth, and stood up for me. If it were up to the large boy, however, I would have been tried, convicted, and sentenced.

We are seeing these same type of attacks daily by the enemy who hates our soul. Satan, prowls around looking for trouble to stir up, and when things get out of hand the author of lies can point the finger at the body of Christ as the sole source of blame. He tries to distract us from the truth. It is difficult for the world to believe that God is good when they look at the world and see such turmoil. Their focus is misplaced, however, because we know, as Christ-followers, that every human being has free will and God has sent an answer for suffering if we will only accept it an embrace transformation. So, the enemy will stir up trouble only to point the finger at God when things don’t seem right.

As Christians, we are at war with principalities of the dark. To fight this, we are called to take up arms in the form of love, grace, and mercy. Our goliath could be our self-perception, our doubt, or even our need for growth.  Get angry, and fight.

Love you all.

-Landon DeCrastos

Why My Kids Are the “Sheltered Ones”

Why My Kids Are the -Sheltered Ones-Bedtime seems to be a place of interesting conversations with my children. On one hand, I love that they enjoy talking with me, on the other hand, sometimes I just want to clock out for the day from being a parent (let’s be honest) so I am ready to tell the story, pray the prayer, and get out. There are times with my son, though, I stick around longer to field any questions he has stored up throughout the day. Often they are whimsical, and other times they are pretty deep. One day, he had questions that I couldn’t easily answer without introducing him to a world that didn’t exist for him as of yet.

This day was one that we had driven a lot around downtown Indianapolis. We had our fun, ate our meals, and came home to pour ourselves into bed. Children, as you know, don’t always feel that sleep is as urgent as we do. My son started the “question machine” and by the nature of the questions, I could tell that I was going to be there a while. The inquiries ranged from the intricacies of the Power Rangers storyline to ones deeper, and more theological in nature. The last question led to an explanation I wanted to avoid.

“Dad, today when we were out, why were people sleeping on the sidewalk”. I wasn’t really understanding what he meant until I thought about our day. He was speaking about the homeless people that we passed. I had the uncomfortable conversation about how there are some people who do not have homes, enough food, or even a family. For my son, this conversation ended in tears, and his heart visibly broke for these people. I felt convicted, because I had been so desensitized to the sight that I didn’t realize he noticed.

At first, I felt horrible that I had never exposed my children to this concept. Then, I realized what happened because I didn’t. My son, was so heartbroken by the sight that he wanted to do something about it. Granted, there could have been a better and more deliberate way I presented the concept to him before this, but the fact that he was sheltered from it caused him to see that there was something not right. I also realized we need to speak about this more in our home.

The same can be said about so many other areas of life. Cursing, sexuality, graphic violence, and addictions…the list could go on. I shelter my children from these things for 2 main reasons. First, because I want to guard their hearts from pollution, and secondly because I want them to enter a world in which they are so thrown off by sin and pain that they recognize that it is not normal or “okay”…thus desiring to make the world better. I want them to be emotionally shattered by injustice so that they develop a holy anger to make things right. Also, I want to be the one (along with my wife) that helps them navigate their feelings in a healthy way when they do encounter the unknown. That way, we can also shelter them from hating those who are different or looking down on those who they don’t understand.

Why have we decided, as a nation, that is is now okay to slowly poison our children’s souls so they are immune to the “real world” when they enter it? Why have we decided it is okay to steal our children’s innocence by forcing them into a life of pain from nearly day one?

Now, I want you to understand my heart. In no way am I judging the methods by which other parents raise their children, because judgement involves condemnation and sentencing. What I am saying is…I want people to know my strategy and passion, so that they can either embrace or disregard based on their own views.

So, my kids are the ones that have never said or heard course language, watched that one show, and who call adults Mr. and Mrs. I understand you are concerned that they may rebel due to strictness, but I will pray on how to handle that if it happens. I have a great support system with my church, family, and friends that will come in handy during this time. Plus, they have free will and their own individual life purposes, but I want to show them it is possible to be a Godly person in private and in public. Parenting is so much more than simply keeping our kids alive until they leave home. It is a process in which we pour ourselves into them and invest in the future of humanity.

That’s my take on it. Take it or leave it.

Love you all.

-Landon DeCrastos

Inspired to Live (Repost)

Inspired to Live

“Hi, I’m Madie, what is your name?”

The conversation started and centered around her favorite things to do and how long she was going to be vacationing on the beach. She was a cute little 9 year old girl that had about as much energy and questions as any other girl of the same age. She seemed to be enamored by the cuteness of my daughter…which doesn’t really surprise me, because I am pretty sure my baby girl deserves at least a couple awards for the way she looks. Maddie kept wanting to (the only word to describe it is) pet my girl as if she were a gerbil and we like to take her out in public for some reason. Oddly enough, we are somewhat used to this…

Maddie went around our family-created half circle as we floated in the pool together and asked where we were from and what we did for a living. To be honest, I wanted to just float and play with my kids in peace. My answers were abrupt. My wife, however, is always inquisitive and began to ask this little girl about where she was from. Apparently, Maddie hadn’t yet learned the “don’t talk to strangers” rule we all learned in grade school and at home. There was something about her, though, that seemed to have a zest for life. It could be her age.

Maddie told us that she was a twin, and her sister, Macy, was also swimming nearby. Right as she said this, her clone came bouncing along at lightspeed past the “no running” sign on the wall. When Macy jumped in, it soon was apparent that these girls were best friends.

I decided to join in and admit defeat to their cuteness. I asked dumb questions like, “can you read each other’s minds?” just to break the ice (which was already shattered). They laughed and I entered the conversation. Then, all of the sudden, Macy blurted out something completely out of context. She said, “Yeah, Maddie wasn’t supposed to be born.”

That shocked me when I heard it, and I asked her to explain. Macy then told me the story about how doctors were expecting Maddie to be born dead because Macy was “stealing all of Maddie’s food and blood in Mommy’s tummy”. What she was describing is a fatal medical condition during gestation. So, she reiterated, “Maddie was not supposed to be born…but I am glad she was…she is my best friend.” Macy said this with a smile as if she really didn’t understand the full implications of what she said. Meanwhile, I am silent and nodding my head as if this conversation hasn’t completely floored me. It still rings in my head.

These girls then went along their way, and played like sisters are made to do. These girls are both walking miracles…one, because she is alive and the other because she chooses to live.

I will remember these girls for a long time. Their energy and playfulness give me hope that, when I feel dry, tired, and alone in my Christian walk…there is always hope for new life. It means something that Maddie made it. I have to believe that. A girl who should not be here is only a couple of years away from having a crush on a boy, and only 36 years away from becoming president.

Live a life that inspires others to live. Even if you feel dead…the inventor of life can resurrect.

-Landon DeCrastos

Heroic Prayer

HeroicPrayerMy son loves when I tell him a story before he goes to bed. I like to think it is because he thinks I am an excellent story teller, but the truth is he simply knows that he can stay up for those last few minutes if I tell him one.

Sometimes, it is a story from his Children’s Bible, and other times it is more of a biographical tale of something that happened when I was a child. Lately, I have made up children’s stories. They usually have a hidden lesson. He loves it when I make them up.

Two nights ago, I made up a story that was loosely based on another story I heard when I was young. You may have heard a similar version, but the story was about a man who prayed and asked God to make him strong. This man prayed and prayed because he was a weak man who really wanted supernatural strength. He desired to be a superhero (my boy loved that prayer). Everyday, God told this man to go outside and push on the same large boulder. This boulder was immovable, and each day this man became more and more frustrated because he could not move it. He questioned what the point was if it could not be moved. He was also frustrated because he had to walk a long way through the woods to get to this boulder. Daily, his body would ache as he attempted to push this rock. He would wake up every morning sore and dreading the next attempt. He continued to obey, though.

After 3 months of this strenuous routine, this man became angry with God and decided to stop praying for this transformation. He believed God was good, and that He could do anything…he was just tired of praying. He pledged to God, however, that he would do it one more time. So, he began his trek through the woods to find the large boulder.

He was halfway to his destination when he heard a weak cry for help. He moved around to see where the cry was coming from and he noticed it became louder near a large hole in the ground. He looked in the hole and saw a little boy who had fell and was hurt. The man reached down and easily pulled the boy to safety. The man soon realized that his months of pushing made him stronger than he ever was. God had answered his prayer. He was a hero.

Sometimes we feel so helpless that we forget that God is working in our lives. We focus on our inadequacies. It is His strength, mercy, and power that matter…not our might or understanding.

Never stop praying. Even when it seems like the object in front of you seems immovable. Perhaps God is changing you while you are praying for the situation to change. Keep pushing.

Love you all.

-Landon DeCrastos

Thankful Wisdom

wisdom-large-3My family means the world to me. This is not only because they are the people that care about me the most, but because they are also the ones who teach me about who I am called to be. My wife encourages me daily, softens my heart and also helps me to grow as a person. My extended family tells me the truth when it is hard to do so and knows the private version of myself…the part of me that can release professionalism and embrace nonsense from time to time. My kids are a like a mobile classroom and simply raising them is the equivalent to pursuing a doctoral degree in physics, chemistry, biology, theology and psychology.

Tonight, my son and I had an interesting conversation about the church. I asked him if he knew what I did at church every Sunday. “You sing for people at church”, he said confidently.

“Sometimes I sing with other people, but what do I normally do at church?”

“I don’t know”

I engaged him in a conversation that was meant to explain what I do. To simplify, I told him I teach people about God at church. Then, what came out of his mouth was incredible.

Josiah: That’s good to teach people about God…I am glad we have a thankful church.

Me: A thankful church? What are we thankful for?

Josiah: We are thankful for each other and thankful for Jesus.

Me: Why are we thankful for Jesus?

Josiah: (pause)…because He has been faithful to us.

When my 3.5 year old son says something like this it is hard to know how to respond. I struggled to know what to say, and finally I told him he was right….even though he didn’t realize the full implication of what he said.

Why can’t we get this right? Why can’t we embrace God’s faithfulness fully and reject our tendency to walk away from His love? Why do we spend so much time hating what is right and desiring what will destroy us? Most humans are stuck in a delicate balance between desiring to be independent and wanting to be guided in the direction of wisdom.

Let’s face it…sometimes kids remind us of things we have swept under the proverbial rug of our lives. It’s a humbling experience, but we need it. It is time for us to wake up and remember why we are followers of Christ. Not because He gives us stuff, but because, through discipline and tenderness, He is always faithful.

-Landon DeCrastos

Simply Serve

painting

I think every pastor, from time to time, sits in his/ her office and wonder what they can do better to grow their church. It is frustrating at times to work hard and to visibly see people losing interest in what you are doing. Pastors…let’s be honest…we feel that growing our church (whatever that means) is solely our responsibility. We try to come up with creative ideas that will get more butts into seats, manufacture excitement, and give people a great show to talk about for the rest of the week. I am more and more convinced that we are missing the point entirely.

I pastor a fairly small church in Fishers, IN called Fishers Point Community Church. We are a slowly growing church plant that has a ton of children and is overall very family-oriented. I love that worship community. As the Lead Pastor of this church, the first paragraph at one point described me perfectly. I felt responsible for everyone’s happiness and the steady growth of the church. Granted, I am responsible for strategic leadership, but growth requires more than what I listed…

One day, I sat in my office and had such a burden for my church. I began to feel as if there was something missing from what we were doing. I looked at our mission statement and it looked good…I thought about our music and it was  great quality…I even critically analyzed my own preaching. Everything seemed great! Why were people coming into our worship services so tired and checking their watches during worship? It occurred to me that our church had never really taken any risks and had not selflessly served the community. I thought we did…I mean we had a great worship service to come to that anyone was invited to participate in…We were not actually serving people for the purpose of simply serving.

When we started targeting people to serve in our community we began to see testimonies regularly and people seeing God moving in their lives! And…most importantly we serve making sure that we do not do so just to get people to come to our church. We make sure that we just simply serve.

The most recent example was a project that we did for a single mother of 2 boys. We painted her house…It was so simple, but through this project the people that participated were changed. This woman was so gracious to humbly let us serve her. She seemed so appreciative. The next morning, in our worship service, we saw spontaneous testimonies, and God took over to the point that I had to surrender my sermon to God’s control. I didn’t preach what I intended. What happend that day can’t fully be described.

We have seen our local church invigorated because children and adults are involved in sacrificially giving their time, money, and energy to make sure that Christ is seen through us. People not only need to hear the word they need to see it.  My vision for this church is to mobilze an army of sacrifically serving individuals to reflect Christ’s love around the community.

I have found that churches and individuals will grow and become passionate about their faith when they take the gospel message they are hearing and translate it to the animation of their hands and hearts.

It is transforming our church…It’s what God wants.

-Landon DeCrastos

The Weight of Worship

worshipI can’t tell you how blessed I have been as a pastor. My church is amazing, and everyone seems to really be mission-minded. The fact is like others; I take things for granted, and often end up being convicted by the Holy Spirit of such things. One example is the concept of our worship service at church. In our history, we have had worship leaders who led and who were beyond talented. Their ability to lead people to the throne was amazing and the music was professional quality.

As it stands today, we do not have an official main leader for our music. Since this became a reality, we have been filling in with extremely talented musicians from our congregation. A while back, someone had the idea of allowing our children to lead a worship service. “What?!?! Are you crazy?!?!”, I quietly thought. We were used to such great professional quality. This could possibly ruin what we are doing…I was afraid. We went ahead and allowed the children to lead that Sunday, and the Holy Spirit swept through the service like I have never seen before. In fact as I am writing this, I am trembling as a result of recounting the memory. Then, the first time our teens led…the same thing happened.

These services started a journey that all of us at our church are on together. Trust, believing and waiting for God to move have been actions we have learned more about in the process. God has been showing up in our services each week, and the quality has been great, but each week leading up to the service (behind the scenes) has had its struggles. Before, I took the music for granted because I never had to think about it…now; each Sunday is a process of labor that always goes well, and God is able to freely move. The music has always been great, but with the work that goes into it now; we are feeling the weight of worship. We are not perfect in everything, but God is revealing more truth about this as time goes by.

In the Old Testament, God had specific rules about how we are to handle the Ark of the Covenant. This Ark was the tangible symbol of God’s presence and if it was mishandled, then individuals would be cursed (or die). God thought worship was so important that it had to be protected and handled with reverence. Certainly, we all could use more thoughtfulness when approaching worship, but corporately as a church the buck stops with me.

The Holy Spirit has impressed on my heart that I was not feeling the full weight of worship like I should have been. I took everything for granted, and through this, I am growing into a new pastor. Never again will I take God’s presence for granted…

-Landon DeCrastos

His Lap

toysI had the opportunity, last night, to hang out one on one with my son while my wife went to a women’s bible study. Like always, it is fun to play with him and have a “boys only” club while mommy was away. When mommy is gone, we do cool boy stuff like build forts, play indoor basketball on his toddler hoop, and eat nutritionally unbalanced meals.

Yesterday, I became the resident horse and was ridden around the house until my arms felt like jello. After this experience, I needed to rest and Josiah decided he was going to play by himself for a few minutes. I took these few minutes to check my email.

After a moment of being on the computer, I began to sense that he wanted to play with me again. My main clue was the mountain of toys he decided to pile in my lap while I was typing. He had taken the time, one by one, to place every stuffed animal, puzzle piece, and book he could find in front of me to instigate me to play with something.

I laughed, because I felt like I was drowning in a sea of toys. After he had done this, he did something interesting…he wanted to climb on my lap too. There was obviously limited real estate on my lap so I had to clear everything off to accommodate him.

This situation made me think about my relationship with God. In my times of prayer, I always feel like I pile heavy burdens and relatively insignificant pleas in His lap to the point of overload. “God probably gets tired of hearing the same prayers”, I think to myself.

The truth is actually quite the opposite. God wants us to pile our burdens, requests, fears, doubts, and anger on His lap. He wants to hear from us on a regular basis. His lap is infinitely large. He enjoys hearing our voice and guiding His children.

This is only part of His nature though…because even though He enjoys when I pile everything on His loving lap, there is something He wants even more…all of me.

Climb into God’s lap today…rest in His care.

-Landon DeCrastos

Prayer Sticks

First I want to apologize for talking about my son a lot in this blog. If you are reading this and making the inevitable conclusion that this post is about my son as well….you are right. Just humor me…stick with it….it will be over soon. Also, in a related matter…my son rules.

For a few weeks now, we have introduced our son to the concept of prayer sticks. These sticks have the names of various friends, and family written on them. Each night, Josiah will pull a stick out of the jar, and after his story, that is the stick we pray for. We have been praying with him since he was an infant, but he would mostly just listen or look at mommy and daddy shutting their eyes and make funny noises while we prayed.

When he first began to talk, he would say “Amen” when he knew the prayer was over. Several months ago, he asked us if he could pray. Often it would be him bashfully mumbling and we couldn’t understand a word. Within the last week, our son has asked to pray and his prayers have been coherent and actually very profound. I won’t go into the content of the prayers but it seems that God shows up when he prays. Lately, at the end, my wife and I will look at each other with amazement and wonder where he got the idea to pray for these specific areas of need.

Don’t take this as a statement of theological fact, but I almost wonder if God hears these prayers a little louder than most prayers that I pray. Not because God loves anyone more or less, but when prayers are prayed with innocence and sincerity at this level, one can feel an angel walk by.

My point? Teach your kids to pray. Prayer is a powerful weapon when yielded by someone as skilled as a child. Let them loose on the landscape of divine communication and just watch what happens.

Apparently with prayer sticks…..prayer sticks.

-Landon DeCrastos

Avoiding Trouble

A few days ago, I revealed a deep dark secret about my childhood. It was one of those times in which my brother and I did not have the wisest of judgment and God was gracious to protect us from harm. Stories that end in barely escaping harm seem to take up a large part of my memory. Being a boy, daredevil stunts came naturally.

One particular activity that I regret as I reflect on my childhood (in which I participated in a few times) was the ridiculously stupid firework war with my friends. These wars didn’t include harmless poppers or makeshift sparkler swords….no….we would shoot bottle rockets at each other and throw small explosives in the opponents direction. It was dumb.

My friend’s dad happened to have some old cars on his property which he would use to harvest cosmetic car parts. One time, when we were engaging in our ruthless war, one of us accidently shot (with pinpoint accuracy) a bottle rocket into the gas tank (no, I am not kidding) of one of these cars. The world stopped spinning, and we all looked at each other with panic. We did the bravest, and most manly thing we could think of….we ran. Somehow, by the grace of God, the rocket was a dud and no explosions occurred.

If we were to list the things that God has saved us from, how long would the list be? Perhaps these things are situations that we have prayed about for a long time, or maybe they are things that we were complete ignorant about. In either circumstance, God, for some reason, helped us escape the most severe of all the possible consequences. One has to wonder, then, if we have some greater purpose, or in those times, if there was a reason for this rescue.

In life and even in death, God has a plan for all of us. It is up to us to recognize this truth, and obey God to see it fulfilled. This doesn’t mean we are always clear on the details, but it does mean we trust that God desires the best for us.

-Landon DeCrastos