Patience is a Bird-Shoe

Patience is a Bird-Shoe

When I was a child, I rarely knew why people would laugh when I attempted to teach them a very valuable lesson. I learned this saying from my grandma, and she would say it when I was antsy about a fun trip we were waiting to go on or perhaps anticipating the opening of Christmas presence. As a child, no matter what amount of time you wait for something you are excited about, it seems to be too long. Every time the second hand clicks to the next notch, mental and emotional torture increases. I never fully understood the phrase my grandma told me when I would get into these phases of temporary anxiety. This was the main reason I did not comprehend the purpose of the laughter. The times I would share my deep wisdom on the subject of waiting, I was being serious and wanted people to learn the valuable lesson. In situations when people seemed to want to rush, I would simply say “Patience is a Bird-shoe”. I honestly thought people were giggling, because they recognized that such deep wisdom was coming from a small child, who was obviously intelligent beyond his years.

One day, I was doing an assignment in my dorm room in college, and I decided to take a mental break. I stared off into space and I began to think about random memories of my childhood.  As I gazed into the vast cosmos, the memory of people enjoying a good laugh at my expense came to mind. As I thought about the context of the situation, I immediately realized I was saying the phrase incorrectly my entire childhood. No one ever corrected me because they thought it was so cute.

Certainly as adults we know the correct phrase; ”Patience is a virtue”. The word “virtue” describes behavior showing high moral standards (according to dictionary.com). If a child would say the timeless truth the way I did, we would all have a good laugh and now I understand that. We would immediately know that the child did not know the meaning of virtue or even patience. I propose, however that many adults don’t understand these concepts either.

As fully grown humans created in the image of God, we often look at the concept of patience as an obstacle. It is a necessary evil that we would rather avoid. In our hearts and minds, a delay of any sort of news is one that can cause us to completely rethink our direction and purpose. For some of us who struggle with waiting on a spiritual scale, it is even tempting to think that the need for patience is the same as God “closing a door”. To be honest, it can seem like torture. This is often because our culture praises instant gratification. This is really no different than any generation in history. The Israelites were well known for their lack of patience as well. God’s timing and His power go hand-in-hand.

In scripture, James tells us that “perseverance must finish its work so that [we} may be mature and complete, not lacking anything”. In this context, he is describing perseverance as a sentient actor in our grand drama that is interacting with us. If perseverance were a person then he/ she has a specific calling and purpose and that is to positively disrupt and grow our lives. Waiting can be a mechanism that God uses to transform us into the people God wants us to be so that we can properly steward His blessing when we receive it. Think about that.

So, make fun of my childhood understanding all you want, but if we were to be honest, connecting patience and virtue can often be foreign to us as well.

Trust God as you wait. You will be okay. I promise.

Love you all.

-Landon DeCrastos

Grace is Rare

Grace Is RareUnless you have been living under a rock, you have probably read articles, or have seen news segments about recent allegations surrounding pastors who have morally fallen. Some of these stories involve sexual misconduct, and others imply that the leaders have mismanaged funds belonging to the church or organization they lead. The fallout of these allegations can be devastating. They can give their families a deep wound and tear apart the church they were once pastoring. Some ministers have been arrested, or publicly shamed for their actions and when this happens, we all know social media goes wild with comments. Certainly, if these allegations are true, we should hold the leaders accountable and they should repent of their actions. These actions come from a prideful heart and sometimes the money and influence become intoxicating.

The circumstances alluded to above can cause energetic conversation at the dinner table. These scandals are not just confined to those serving in a pulpit, though. We can all tell stories of people who we once trusted yet let us down in a catastrophic way. Odds are, if they have developed trust with us, they are probably considered a “good person” by the world’s standards. They have given to charity, encouraged their neighbor, and they even were once considered a model citizen. Then, something goes wrong, and their affair is exposed, or their unflattering mugshot is displayed on the evening news.

When these things happen, what is our response? Well, if you are the average human being with a social media account, you have 1 of 2 reactions. Either you are shocked and thrown off balance, or you proclaim with arrogance that you “knew” they were not as “squeaky clean” as everyone thought. The sad part of all of this is…far too many people have the second reaction. It is one that is very common in our culture. When we experience a person who seemingly has it together, and is living a “great” life, it is tempting to always retain a level of suspicion about them. That way, when someone messes up, we can immediately jump on the “I told you so” wagon. The reflex of distrust in these situations only takes a microsecond to develop. As a culture…distrust comes quickly.

What about the inverse, though? Why does it not work the other way around? Let’s say a person who has lived an unscrupulous life experiences a complete transformation. Perhaps this individual has hurt us many times in the past without repentance. In cases like this, our minds have been conditioned to distribute grace slowly. Why is this? Can’t forgiveness come as quickly with a person who hurt us as distrust comes after an infraction?

The reality is we live in a fallen world that is very bad at reconciliation. When someone is restored to a new life, it is tempting to not believe them until we personally see some benefit from their life. This makes us just as selfish as the transgressor. Grace is a rare commodity, and I understand that healing takes longer than being wounded, but we must get to a point in our maturity when we develop a quick forgiveness reflex. Does this mean we could be hurt? Yes…yes it does. I won’t sugarcoat it. The purpose, though, is not for us to live in euphoria…it is to share in the redemption of others. Let go of fear, and embrace forgiveness.

-Landon DeCrastos

Carry On and Trust

giving handsDisclaimer: The following blog post is not meant to shame others or boast, but when God brings about a miracle it is usually for the purpose of encouraging others.

Money, for some reason, is a hard subject to talk about…especially in a church setting as a pastor. When pastors talk about finances many automatically assume they are doing so for the purpose of increasing revenue for the church. In the same vein, it is hard to talk about giving because people may start to make personal comparisons and feel ashamed about their own giving history…perhaps the money is extremely tight and God has not dealt with you in this area. That’s okay…but…brothers and sisters, I urge you to not overlook the purity of what I am saying and thus miss the point. We are not talking about a salvation issue here. So, are we good? Okay, good. Here we go.

At the beginning of this month, my wife and I had “the talk”. You have been there at some point. This talk was one that centered around finances. The outcome was meager for us to say the least. My wife had added up the bills and the projected income and we were going to be behind. We realized that, if we did not buy groceries this month, we would still be “in the red”. It was a nauseating feeling…to know there was nothing we could do short of selling a kidney on the black market to break even. The most frustrating thing about this is the fact that we are really wise with what we spend. We are not extravagant spenders and our lifestyle is very simple. Where was God? This was an honest question that we had, and that anyone would natually have in this situation.

We began to brainstorm about ways we could cut back in order to make it. Next month was going to be better, we knew that, so if we could do something to get ahead that would be very helpful. As we tossed around ideas we thought maybe we could cut back on our weekly giving at church. I mean…God has only asked us to give 10 percent, so maybe he would understand if we adjusted our giving to make that our new goal. In the midst of this conversation, God reminded me of similar situations in the past in which He worked out these kind of details. I remembered being a newly married youth pastor and spending more on gas than I was making at my first church assignment. I remember the time when we gave what we had to help a friend and a random check came in the mail from a reimbursement we were not expecting. So, we had a history with God in these scenerios. A long history.

Cutting down on giving made sense, but it also made me think. I couldn’t imagine that God would be sitting on His throne saying, “Okay, you really need to stop giving as much…I can’t keep up.” So, we decided to carry on, and simply trust. It was so hard to do. Even though I preach about it regularly. I suppose I am a normal hypocrite like everyone else in that regard.

We had such a peace about the coming month. Our minds shifted from asking “where is God?” to “I can’t wait to see what He will do.” The result was amazing. We saw blessing after blessing. Reimbursement checks we were not expecting, savings on things we didn’t account for, and a generous gift from a sister church that we did not know was coming. All of these things, together, added up to a month of abundance…and by abundance, I mean paying all the bills with a little bit left to get ahead for next month. We attributed it to allowing God to work in our thought process.

Odds are you have stories like this…and odds are you frequently forget about them like I do.

I tell this story simply to say this… God wants to show off. Let Him do so.

Love you all.

-Landon DeCrastos

A Lesson from the Park

My son became really frustrated with me this evening. It didn’t last for very long, but I could sense that he was upset. He is three years old so this kind of thing happens every day, but this time made me think a little more than other times. You have experienced the same scenerio when you were a child. A bully on the playground triggered the incident.

Today, I decided to take my son to our favorite park. It is fun to watch him let loose and play in an unstructured situation. This time was a little different. At one point in time, he wanted to climb to the highest level of the playground and slide down his favorite curly slide. Normally, I would help him get up there and watch him slide down…this time I didn’t let him go up there. This made him upset because he really wanted to play. I told him he needs to go on another slide for now. You can imagine that conversation did not go well. I pulled him aside and gave him an explanation about why I was preventing him from climbing to the top….There was a bully only feet away from us. He understood and calmed down.

As we were playing in other areas of this park, I had observed this child (maybe 5 or 6) kicking and pushing other kids down the various pieces of equipment. In fact, there was one time when my son was going down one of the slides and he was briefly pushed by the same child. This rubbed me the wrong way…and it also upset some other children.

I wanted to keep him from getting hurt and learning terrible behavior, so I simply waited until the child left and let him continue to play as he wanted. When this bully exited the park I allowed him to explore the full extent of the play equipment.

We experience similar situations daily. God tells us no, or wait, or do something else, and we start to throw a tantrum because we want what we desire and we want it now. God, in His awesome sovereignty, may have set up boundaries in our lives temporarily to steer us away from danger or to guard our hearts. But, sometimes we want to keep barreling through and collect regrets like they are rare coins. As we learn to trust God more we learn to thank Him for unanswered prayers as much as ones fulfilled.

Trust God today. Trust Him in the waiting and in the activity.

-Landon DeCrastos

7 Things I Do That Upset Jesus

Highway7In today’s Christian subculture it is trendy to spend a lot of time pointing out what “Christianity” is doing wrong. Many Christ followers get whipped into a lather when they start talking about “religion” and how our faith life should reject this concept and a relationship should be embraced instead. I get it…God is looking for a relationship not a religion…Christians constantly mess up and make the Kingdom look like a joke, but while I could sit here all day and talk about what everyone else is doing wrong I get uncomfortable when I think about the ways I make Jesus upset. It is hard to admit, but it may speak to others.

Today, I want to talk about 7 things I do that make Jesus upset:

1. I incorrectly define “blessing”-Too often, when I think about the concept of blessing I get it mixed up with being pampered by God. Blessing, in my experience, has more to do with enjoying God’s favor…not collecting more possessions and marinating in temporary happiness. Remember, even though we do not like to admit it, Job was blessed. Not because he got his stuff back at the end of the Old Testament story, but because of his closeness with the Father.

2. I label too many things “legalism”- When I am confronted with a Biblical truth that puts me in my place or rebukes a pattern of behavior; it makes me uncomfortable. I want to live my life the way I feel is right, and often when approached in this way I claim that the information being presented is legalistic. I would rather stick with the way I think about things or react to situations and convince myself that Jesus is still happy with me despite my disobedience to Biblical truth.

3.  I put down the Body of Christ- I always post statuses on Facebook that talk about how the average Christian misses the mark. I have to remember that each believer is a sibling…and just as valuable to the Kingdom as I am.

4. I trust God only with my surplus- It is easy to give God praise when there is money in my bank account. It is also easy to trust Him when I have extra. God desires that I step out without a guarantee that my foot will hit pavement. The Lord, who is perfect in love, knows what I need, and has historically always provided.

5.  I spend too much time talking to God- Much of my prayer time consists of me asking for things, or different circumstances. I think that God has more to say to me than I allow Him.

6. I study His word instead of living it- God’s commands are not meant to be merely memorized, but obeyed. Enough said here.

7. I don’t thank God enough for my family- My biggest support system consists of my wife, children, parents (and in laws), grandparents and siblings (including sister in law). I always yearn for encouragement, but it seems to always come for free with them.

I am so glad that grace is a real thing. Jesus puts up with so much that I do.

-Landon DeCrastos

MY TURN

Yesterday, we were at a restaurant with a couple of friends. We had great conversation and it was fun to be with them. They brought their children and we brought our son, and baby in utero.  If you have ever raised a toddler you know that one does not simply take a child this age to an eating establishment…parents bring the child along with an “eating kit” of sorts (bib, utensils, sippy cup, etc).

Our food had come, and everything looked delicious. After we got everything situated, I turned to my son to put his bib on him. At that moment, my son turned into Mr. Independent and wanted to do it himself. “MY TURN!”, he yelled as he ripped the bib from my hands. He wanted to put the bib on himself. He did not want any help. Within seconds he had it all knotted up and asked for help to get it on.

Sometimes we do this same thing to God. We think we can handle all of our problems, and even become offended when help or support is offered. We want to do things ourselves. We want to have the power to fix what is wrong with us. Often, when we take this course of action, we end up with a tangled mess.

What would the world look like if we looked at God as the first resort instead of the last? I have a feeling things would work a lot smoother. Pride would not be a dominant issue in our lives and we would find peace in the midst of our problems.

Trust in God today…he can fix it….Whatever “it” is.

-Landon DeCrastos

Fear Shaped Living

Why do we give God the credit when things go well? Do we think, for some reason, he orchestrated the event? Or, is it possible we feel that He heard our prayer and provided us with mercy and resources? When things do not go well, we pray that God will make it all better and say we trust in Him to get us though. In all these scenarios, we act as if God has some sort of power, and even loves us. This can’t be true… Why? Because sometimes my fear feels like fact.

Obviously, there is a level of sarcasm in the previous paragraph. There are not many people I know that would state these things out loud. An informal survey among people who call themselves church going Christians would yield great answers concerning the work of God. One would hear the amazing stories of how God has brought people through addiction, divorce, the loss of a family member, and even financial difficulty. In return and overwhelming majority would agree that God can be trusted and should be followed. They may even regularly talk about their pastor’s sermons and how he/ she has challenged them to give their whole self to God. There would be no disagreement with this…until it comes to actually doing it.

Here is the problem with following God. He has brought us through so much, has provided for us, and has even shown us miracles, but sometimes it is not convenient to trust Him. We love seeing the impossible made possible, but we would rather not provide the space for Him to do more than we could even ask or imagine. This occurs most often when we talk about finances. We acknowledge that God has given us these resources in the first place, but our behavior states that we cannot trust Him with them. Fear overcomes.

In today’s culture, the average Christian gives a little over 2 percent of their income to God’s kingdom. This is usually after all the bills are paid and it is deemed possible by our standards. In the same regard, we will pray fervently for God to bless our finances. How can God bless something we never hand over for Him to bless? It is like asking the mechanic to fix your car but never allowing the mechanic to look at it.

Truly trust in God today. Test Him to see if He actually keeps His promises.

-Landon DeCrastos