To. For. Through

With one deliberate breath,
humanity gained access to life
The Creator looked down and decided to use the wind within Him
to bless
every person…every color…every thought process
He gave life TO us

Life was not stolen from His grasp, or accidently bestowed

He had a plan, and affection compelled Him
Just as we say about things that we do “the devil made me do it”

Which usually is an excuse for destruction and decay

He had a factor that also pulled Him to action
Love

We don’t really understand it.
We put people through social interviews before we give it
We have very specific criteria for those rare individuals that may…somehow earn our version of it
But He did not
He just gave it to us…recklessly…without qualification.

Ok then…maybe it was a mistake.
Maybe it was a one-time thing?
No
It wasn’t
Because, right when He was at the point of the highest earthly popularity
He, once again, made the same choice.
He gave His life FOR us.

Ok then…maybe it was a mistake.
Maybe He just gave up, and surrendered to the powers that be.
No
He didn’t
Because, every time He could have ran away, or made an excuse.
He gave up himself willingly

So, He died.
He’s gone, right?
No…not at all.
In fact to complete the loop of His blessing, He breathed His life back into us
He wants to live THROUGH us.

Let’s continue the cycle.

New Bible Study Curriculum

Hello All!

I wanted to introduce you to a new Bible Study curriculum that is being developed. It is called “The Genesis Lens”. I am proud to be a part of this project!

The Genesis Lens has four goals: produce passion for scripture, develop study tools, understand the unity of scripture, and build community. Once the initial study is complete, study materials will be available for teachers to conduct a Genesis Lens study locally.

Everything is still in “construction phase”…but I invite you to take a look at the website! Listen to the podcast as well!

https://www.throughthegenesislens.com/

Thank you!

 

 

Peace on Earth

We say we want peace
Peace on earth and good will
For the final defeat of darkness
And the end of evil

We gather around in circles
Holding hands in unity
Saying we believe in hope
And all the great things that should be

We desperately want change
and want the bad to be still
But we get incredibly upset
When people go against our will

We love telling the world
What things need to occur
It is easy to dictate what’s right
Even if we are not sure

We often shake our fists
When things don’t go right
We stomp our feet
And look for a fight

We huff and puff
And attempt to destroy
But then look in the mirror
And realize we have lost our joy

You see…if we were to be honest
And finally give up the lie
We would realize we could have chosen right
Every single time

When we pray for peace
And good to rule
Let’s not kid ourselves
Or act like a fool

We are the ones who
choose right and wrong
We make the decision
To even bring others along

So don’t pray for peace
If you are not willing to submit
Look at your own actions
And make sure your light is lit.

 

-Landon DeCrastos

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

5 Possible Reasons Why Pastors Are Depressed

5 possible reasons

As I have become more experienced in pastoral ministry, I have developed theories pertaining to many different areas of the vocation. I have ideas about what motivates volunteers, how people best learn about God, what type of leaders are most compelling and many other things that relate. Like any other career or calling, there are still subjects that perplex me. These are things that I am not sure I can fully explain. I have found myself simply having to embrace my lack of understanding and trusting God for guidance.

We have all seen the news in recent months regarding pastors who have succumb to their depression. After these types of instances, rhetoric flies and everyone seems to have an opinion about the spiritual state of the individual, their eternal destiny, and what could have possibly prevented the horrible outcomes. By “horrible outcomes”, I am referring to everything from common (perhaps wrong word to use here) moral failure to taking their own life. Today, I am not writing this to even remotely attempt to dive into the subject listed above from a clinical perspective, but to simply propose some ideas as to why a pastor would begin to develop (circumstantially) a bitter or deeply discouraged attitude.

Disclaimer: I completely understand that all professions have difficult circumstances and stresses…but I can’t speak to those instances. This blog, also, will not pertain to every single pastor…and that’s okay. I can’t speak for everyone. I am not speaking about the chemical imbalance (chronic illness) of depression, but that which is caused by a constant emotional erosion.

Below are 5 Possible Reasons Why Pastors Are Depressed.

Lack of Friendships

No matter how friendly a congregation is, there seems to always be this “elephant in the room” concerning deep meaningful relationships. Many congregants have the idea in the back of their minds that pastors are temporary hired workers who do not need friendships to survive. They may not want to pursue relationships because of the belief that they are not going to be a part of the worship community long term. Pastors need friends…and, to be honest, pastor’s spouses are even more deeply affected in this way.

“We Need To Talk”

Pastors dread this email or text. When a church leader receives this, we already know what is coming. His means that the person who wants to set up a meeting is upset about the way things are going, or they are planning to leave the church. We completely understand that there are things to be changed, or that people are called to other churches, and that is largely okay, but there are not many times when a pastor is called to a meeting to simply exchange encouragement and support. It is normally all about business. Granted, sometimes it is necessary.

“Just Trust God For Your Provision”

I completely agree with this statement, and I think every Christian should maintain this belief. This phrase often emerges when a pastor’s compensation becomes a topic of conversation. The implication is, a pastor should not concern themselves with financial well-being because they have a higher calling that requires them to be willing to be sustained on faith day by day (which is true). For some reason, though, this seems to be an unwelcome conversation when the pastor is not the topic of discussion. For instance, if I were to say this phrase to someone with a Masters in Information Technology or a school teacher between jobs, I would be met with severe push back, and accused on insensitivity. Should pastors be “in it” for the money? Absolutely not. All I am saying is…don’t say this phrase to your pastor if you are not living it. Side note…pastors are often the poorest people in the congregations, and simultaneously the largest givers.  I’m not trying to sound arrogant. I am just being an advocate. And by the way…why is money such a sensitive subject for people? I digress…

The “Performance” Mentality

Pastors are not sales people. When they are called to ministry, there is no guarantee for a “return on investment”in a worldly sense. When God calls, the pastors obeys (at least I would hope so) and there is plenty of Biblical evidence showing that God often calls people into areas of service which may never yield an exciting result. Many churches use sales metrics to rate and measure the pastor’s performance, and sometimes they are even let go if they are not producing. Behind the scenes, this is a great burden for a minister who is simply called to care for, and challenge a flock they have been called to. Besides…the pastor should be training people to invite, evangelize, and to be a part of the mobilized force to help disciple. You can lead a horse to water, but… (you fill in the rest).

Pastors Are Not Allowed to Complain

I know this seems like an odd point, but hear me out. In every other area of life or profession, there is healthy room for venting or decompression. Often times, when a minister or church leader is struggling and needs to express what is on their heart for the purpose of catharsis, they are met with immense push back because God called them so they “shouldn’t be complaining and be so ungrateful”.  The fact is I am fully aware I am going to get a lot of flak for this post, but I feel like these things needed to be said for this very purpose. Pastors are afraid to say these things because of this exact brand of backlash. We also don’t want to harbor a victim mentality. Overall, this concept is very much connected to the friendship idea due to the fact that there are few people to be able to unload these concerns on.

I am not a mental health professional, so there is only so much I can say about root causes pertaining to deep discouragement in this way. I happen to be blessed with an uplifting and supportive community but these are things that I have heard from pastor friends and those I have coached that do not share my blessed privileges.

Pray for your pastor. They love you very much.

I love you too.

-Landon DeCrastos

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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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

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

Running the Course

running the course.I was a teenager in need of physical conditioning.

It was my sophomore year of High School, and I had the bright idea to try out for the school wrestling team. Before you comment, yes, I was aware that a successful completion of this tryout meant that I would be privileged to wear the tight uniform (known as a singlet) given to team members. I didn’t care though, because it was a sport I thought I would really enjoy. I was fairly skilled in the “grappling arts”, but the cardio-based side of the sport had me gasping for breath. I have never been diagnosed with asthma or anything…let’s just say that I wasn’t ready for the physical demands.

Let me paint the picture for you. Me and a large group of boys, who were already sweaty before they ever stepped foot in the wrestling room, stretched and began the arduous endeavor of proving our physical prowess. Coach Silverman let us cut time and intensity off of our workout if we could muster up the energy to run up the wall and do a backflip off of it. Spoiler alert: I could not. This was because I had not worked out in a long time, and I was still carrying a little extra baby weight (which the ladies loved by the way)…I digress. Anyway…after a grueling workout inside, it was time for the aspect of the tryout I had been dreading.

The 5 mile run.

For the average runner, a 5 mile run is something that is rather routine. For me, I had struggled heavily even jogging an entire mile, and the mere thought of running 5 made my legs tired. I was a slow runner anyway, but I knew that being the first one to cross the finish line was not the overall goal. Simply finishing the course was what the coach wanted. We all lined up at the starting point. The coach yelled, “Go!” The mass of humans went on their way and I kept up with the pack nicely for a while.

The course was marked out like a cross country track, with orange traffic cones and yellow tape. At some point, I got a little confused where to turn, but soon got the lay of the land. I felt like I started to get a great pace, and I am not sure whether I got my second wind early, or I was excited to pass a few people, but I felt my energy increase. At one point, I was all alone, and I assumed that the full pack was so spread out that there would be times where I would not be near anyone. So, I charged ahead, and ran longer than I have ever run without slowing down. I felt so proud of myself. I knew I was not going to be the first one that finished, but to finish at all was quite an accomplishment for me. Then, after a run that felt like it took most of the day, I rounded the corner and could see the end in sight.

When I crossed the line, I felt such pride. My pride, though, immediately turned into concern, when I looked around and saw that I was the only one standing at the finish. The coach looked at me with a very puzzled look on his face and asked, “are you done alread?” I nodded my head, and wondered why he asked me in that tone. I soon realized that, at some point, I took a wrong turn, and accidently took a giant short cut. I had only run a little less than 2 miles. It felt like 100. I was devastated. I never came back to tryouts after that day.

In life, it is very tempting to live life always desiring to take short cuts and find the easy way out. If we do this, we keep ourselves from growth and opportunities that will only make us better.

With the easy accessibility of instant information, fast food, and communication, we have mentally conditioned ourselves to make instant gratification not only a desire, but an expectation. This even leaks into our spiritual life. We think something is not God’s will if we become tired of praying for it, or we call waiting a “closed door”.

God wants us to develop a passion for the path and mission He has us on. We must learn to thicken our skin and become laser focused on what we know to be true…no matter how long it takes. When we see resolution, it will be that much sweeter.

Endure dear friends. Simply endure.

-Landon DeCrastos