Ministry Isn’t The Only Way

“Teach me your ways, O Lord, that I may live according to your truth! Grant me purity of heart, so that I may honor you. With all my heart I will praise you, O Lord my God. I will give glory to your name forever, for your love for me is very great. You have rescued me from the depths of death.” Psalm 86:11-13

My soul longs for the praise and glory of God to be continuously on my heart. I long to live like the famed people in Hebrews 11, that despite all that the world showed them, their posture was one of continuous praise and faith. I think all of us long for Psalm 86:11-13 to be the cry of our hearts. But how do we do this? How do we take this scripture and let it be our rally cry, to not only lead others into Easter weekend, but to devote every waking moment to loving God so that our hearts would grow in longing to hear our heavenly father say, with love in his eyes, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”

There are a few things that I think will help us in this journey.

Continue reading Ministry Isn’t The Only Way

Dear Mr. Webster

If you were to come over to my house, you would find fresh flowers from Trader Joe’s, and decor in every shade of aqua blue. You will also see bible verses and quotes framed on every wall. There is not much blank space on my walls and I like it that way. I have lots of favorite things about my home. I really like my hutch that has been redeemed from The Salvation Army. It has been lovingly repainted in one of those many shades of aqua blue, and is constantly redecorated with each new season. I love my kitchen table that has chairs on one side, and a bench on the other, so I can put my legs up on it in the morning when I am drinking my coffee. I love my house and all my decorative items that I feel make home all the more homey. However, all those wonderful things are actually not my favorite thing about my home. My favorite thing inside my house is found upstairs in the guest bedroom. Continue reading Dear Mr. Webster

What’s In A Name?

 

When you’re stuck with a name like Dextral Delector Alexander II you think about names a lot.

 

Like, why my dad chose to name me after himself?

Was it ego?

Was it pride?

Was it a joke?

 

I didn’t fully understand his choice until a few years ago.

I had succeeded in my career but I had failed my character.

I was in a fog.

I had no-one to blame but myself.

I was 1500 miles away from my closest friend.

I was separated from my family.

I was unsure of my future.

 

I was alone.

 

My father and I were bound together, at times, only by name.

I was reminded of this every time I applied for credit.

On numerous occasions, the IRS reminded me as well.

Our names created constant coincidental collisions –

times we had to call each other with some explanation

to clear up the confusion.

There was constant confusion between us.

 

I called my father and prepared myself for another explanation.  

 

So much of my relationship with God centers around explanation.

Why did that happen?

What does this mean?

Am I doing this right?

Is this how it’s always going to be?

Can you take this away?

Sorry about that.

 

I ask or explain. He affirms and embraces.

 

My dad answered the phone the same way every time.

“Pastor D.D. Alexander…”

As I began to explain, the words choked themselves in my throat

unable to make sense of themselves.

I felt ashamed of myself and what I had done

to our name.

The pastor became the father.

 

Stop. Just come home.

 

He’d tell me, “Anywhere you go, I’m with you.

Anytime you wonder who you are,

remember, you’re my son.

That will never change.

No matter what.

You’ll always be Dextral Delector Alexander

and Dextral Delector Alexander’s son.”

 

My father’s promises to me are life giving.

 

When I think about my Dad,

I don’t think about the times we missed each other.

I think about the moments we connected.

Each of those moments were based on his promise.

That I was always his son. No matter what.

His position – as pastor –

never distracted from his promises – as father.

 

My father’s promises are tied to his name.

 

He’d say to me

(sorry this is a bit crass, but he was a pastor and it makes the point)

“All I have in life are my nuts and my name.”

If he didn’t keep his promises,

he felt his name,

his position and

he as a person was worthless.

 

I praise your name for your unfailing love and faithfulness;

for your promises are backed

by all the honor of your name. – Psalm 138

 

The name of God is backed by his promises.

His name reminds us that he’s never failed

to come through on a promise

– never once –

because by doing so, he would dishonor his own name.

Which is why his name

is above all names.

 

Nothing can stand against.

 

When he’s called El HaNe’eman (Deuteronomy 7:9)

he’s The Faithful God –

never failing, never slowing, never turning.

When he’s called Immanu El (Isaiah 7:14)

we’re reminded that God Is With Us,

by his choice, not ours.

We’re never alone, we’re never abandoned, never left to ourselves.

 

You didn’t want Heaven without us…

 

When He’s called “YHVH”

(pronounced by most as Jehovah, but no pronunciation is truly accurate)

we’re reminded that He is.

Always is.

Never was not.

Never will not be.

And as such, He is Lord (Adonai) of All, in a way only he can be.

 

You were the Word at the beginning, One with God the Lord Most High.

 

YHVH Elohim – LORD God: (Genesis 2:4)

YHVH M’kadesh – The LORD Who Makes Holy: (Ezekiel 37:28)

YHVH Yireh – The LORD Who Sees/Provides: (Genesis 22:14)

YHVH Nissi – The LORD My Banner: (Exodus 17:15)

YHVH Shalom – The LORD Of Peace: (Judges 6:24)

YHVH Tzidkaynu – The LORD Our Righteousness: (Jeremiah 33:16)

YHVH O’saynu – The LORD Our Maker: (Psalm 95:6)

 

Your hidden glory in creation, now revealed in you our Christ.

 

The most important thing my father ever did for me

was give me his name.

In doing so, he connected me not only to himself

by keeping his promises until the day he died,

but also to YHVH

whose promises are everlasting

and whose name is to be praised.

 

Reflection Questions:

  1. Looking at this season of your life, who do you need God to be for you right now? What names of God above resonated with you?
  2. In what way is God reaching out to you?
  3. Take some time to think of a name for God, one that is reflective of what you need now, that is consistent with his character, and supported by Scripture?
  4. Take some time to pray to the God who meets you where you are and draws you into friendship with himself. Call him by the name you’ve given to him and see how he responds to you.

 

The Call of the Wild

Back in 2013, I was asked by Sandals Church to prayerfully consider giving up my career as a successful business owner to come work for the church.  I have to admit that it was an incredibly thrilling invitation.  As I reflect back, I was very scared and prayed nearly every day for six months before giving my answer.  I truly did want to know what God was doing, but fear and confusion seemed to grip every part of my being. Continue reading The Call of the Wild

Music For Ash Wednesday

“Remember you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”

This is what you would normally hear at a traditional Ash Wednesday service, accompanied by a cross of ashes smeared on your forehead. For thousands of years Christians have begun the season of Lent in this way, a somber reminder that humans have sinned, and with sin comes death.

At Sandals Church, there is no formal service for Ash Wednesday, and it’s by no means a requirement to observe it. Rather, we are free to do so if we choose. We can use this freedom to both give context to and focus on repentance and also give context to and focus on the very real hope we have in Christ and the promise of new life.

In light of this, I’ve curated a short playlist to help us to think on these things. To feel these things. Life is short and we are limited in our humanity. From dust we came and to dust we will return, and yet we hope in eternal life found in Jesus’ resurrection.

Listen here for Apple Music and here for Spotify.

So Good It Isn’t

Has your heart ever ached? I’m not just talking about feelings of sadness. I’m talking about that indescribable throb of a barely beating heart as your mind races to try and grab hold to any semblance of clarity. And your body? It’s stuck, waist deep in a sloshy, frozen mud pit with no leverage to pull yourself out, completely paralyzed to act on any of it, numb to feeling anything else. For many of us, that emotional state is not a foreign concept. Yet, it is one that we often pretend doesn’t exist. When I try to summarize it into one word, I follow the trail down to the very bottom of what I am feeling, finding myself at the bitter end of disappointment.  

Continue reading So Good It Isn’t

The Trickle Down Effect

Many years ago, while running a ministry for those involved in the sex industry and through a series of other divine circumstances, I met a young woman. There was a noticeable fragility about her; how fearful she was to make decisions and how much she seemed to desire guidance and encouragement. We had a long distance friendship, and as time passed our conversations on the phone turned into visits out to California. The friendship deepened– and my husband Matt and I gained a sobering understanding of how the heart-breaking experiences of our sweet friend had shaped and left her with a broken life, a broken view of her self-worth and a broken view of what relationships should look like. Throughout the years we walked with her through a relentless series of tragedies that seemed as if they would never let up, from losing custody of her daughter, to the loss and betrayals of friends, and then, her mom’s suicide. As her emotional capacity began to unravel, I saw how the circumstances of her life left her completely ill-equipped to cope, and ultimately led to the poor choices she was making in the wake of her pain. What we had learned was that Amber was a victim of the human trafficking cesspool, and we were watching her drown without the skills, resources, or relationships to survive.

Continue reading The Trickle Down Effect

The Other Side of Grace

When I get real with myself, the thought of how much grace I need is overwhelming. Every careless thought, word, and action screams against me. It’s difficult to believe that God can forgive the harsh words I’ve said to my wife and kids, the evil thoughts I’ve had, and the selfish tendencies that plague me. It’s hard to receive grace for things like yelling at your wife on vacation in Hawaii or getting angry with your sweet adopted boys because they didn’t obey quickly enough. It’s the things in which I should “know better” that hurt the most. How could I be so selfish/stupid/mean/heartless? There is so much that I do sinfully that I need God’s grace for…

Continue reading The Other Side of Grace