Tag Archives: Forgiveness

26 to 26: A Weekend in Maine

My roommate moved out at the end of August and, with that, seemingly opened the floodgates of change in my life. Good, messy, hard, chapter-turning change.

And she also just up and got engaged married.

Emilia and I made the trek up to visit her in central Maine this weekend. We knew that she’d be in the area for Thanksgiving but we also knew that the likelihood of us getting any one-on-one time with her was just about 0%.

We left early on Saturday morning and arrived just after 10. We spent the entirety of our time together in our pajamas, drinking coffee, laughing, sharing, and listening all huddled around her parents’ wood stove. It was beautiful…and wonderfully warm!

Friends! Coffee! Yoga pants! No showers! It’s the perfect weekend!

Don’t worry. I’m learning things all of the time and this weekend was no different. Here are some old, and one beautifully new, lessons I’m (re)learning:

Now after planning to be gone for the weekend, at nearly 26, I should have been responsible and done my dishes before I left. However, I am irresponsible and I hate doing dishes so I did not. That means that the soup pot from the beef stew I made last Thursday just sat around alllllllllll weekend.

Heck, I’m not going to lie to you. It’s still sitting around. I don’t want to open the lid and disturb whatever smelly, nasty stuff is going on in that thing.

#1: Do the dishes, Alyssa.

While we’re on a similar vein of “things you do that make you an idiot, Alyssa” I should probably address these food allergies that I have. My body hates…no. That is not a strong enough word to describe it. My body detests, loathes eggs, milk, and wheat.

What to guess what I had to eat in Maine?

Oh, don’t worry. Just a big, ole’ turkey sandwich on soft, chewy bread (wheat) slathered with mayonnaise (eggs) and American cheese (milk).

Oh, don’t worry. My intestines are still feeling the wrath of that sandwich.

I should know by now to plan ahead and pack my own food. I should know by now how disgusting I’ll feel and how my stomach will reward me by torturing me during my all too short little vacation with my friends.

#2: Don’t eat the crap you’re not supposed to, Alyssa.

This last one is something that Miranda said, that she taught me.

She said, “At some point, I made a choice…to love him. I made a decision that was for richer or poorer, sickness or health.”

I guess I’ve never thought about it that way—loving being a choice. I suppose that it’s because I’ve always just loved the people who loved me first. I suppose that maybe it’s because I have a romanticized idea of falling, stumbling into love.

I suppose that I’m probably completely wrong.

Love is a choice. It’s the best choice. It’s a hard choice.

It’s a choice that has to be made on the good days and the bad days, on the wedding days, birthdays, and death days. It’s a choice that you just have to keep choosing.

Love is a choice, a resolution.

#3: Choose love. Every day. Choose it with your family and your coworkers and your friends and your enemies. Make the life-changing choice to love because of and despite of.


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26 to 26: It’s not your responsibility to make everyone happy

I often say that I am a people-pleaser both by nature and profession. My natural tendency, impulse to make people happy makes me pretty good at my job and pretty hard on myself.

This next one is a hard lesson to learn:

It is not your responsibility to make everyone happy.

creative commons; efleming

creative commons; efleming

I’ve been seeking other people’s approval for just about 26 years but I’ve been doing it as my full time gig for just over two. I’ve had some frustrating interactions with ministry leaders, parents, and group members but they don’t usually shake me.

Until a few months ago.

Until a Hispanic woman berated me in the lunch line in her broken English and made me cry. All over a few baked potatoes. I didn’t cry in front of her, of course. I’m too proud, too stoic for that. No. I waited until she had said her peace and I had nodded and I’m sorry-ed myself out. Then I went to the basement and bawled.

Her group leader saw the whole thing and tried to intervene. She had consoled me with Don’t listen to her. She’s crazy.

But they didn’t matter. Again, I nodded and smiled and said that it was fine, fine, fine.

This woman’s words shook me not because she upset with the situation but because she was upset with me. She made it clear how she felt about me. I was unqualified, immature, and impolite.

And the haunting fear: I’m not enough, I’m not enough, I’m not enough.

There will be people to whom you cannot say yes and you will have to say no.

There will be people who don’t like the things that you say, the jokes you crack, the stances you hold, the questions you ask, the answers you give.

There will be people who whisper about you behind your back.

There will be people who say hard things to your face.

There will be people who do not like you.

And that’s okay. That’s actually kind of normal. That’s actually kind of good.

Your life’s purpose isn’t to make people happy. Don’t let that scare you. Your life’s purpose is way bigger than that.

Keep your eyes up and your heart open.


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Cast them on Jesus.

I hadn’t even asked the question and He had already answered it.

I didn’t need to part my lips because He already knew it all together.

“God, I don’t even know what to do with all this sin.” That was the thought that popped into my head and that was it. That was all it took- just a thought.

Cast it on Jesus, He said. Cast it on Jesus.

There are moments in my life that are so thick, so raw, and they terrify me. These moments when my sin has just completely consumed me, when I feel so far from Eden. Like it was never even there.

But that’s the answer He gives in those moments:

Cast them on Jesus.

Because that is all we need to hear. That is the only answer we need. Jesus.

There are times where I want to gently place my sin on Jesus. Or to seal it up in a nice envelope and leave it on Jesus’ doorstep, thinking “I don’t want to disturb him.” But instead God says cast your sins upon Jesus.

Cast is not a gentle word. It is a word of force, of violence. To cast stones. To cast off chains. Not to roll them gently but to throw them. To throw your sins as far as you can get them away from yourself and where they land is on Jesus.

And they more than land there, they are absolved there. They are paid for there. They are forgotten there.

That is the amazing thing about grace. That is the thing that I can’t understand. That is the reason why the gospel does not make sense to me all too often.

That is why grace is so radical. That is why grace is so different. Because God did not say, “cast your sins away from you; keep your distance, groveling on your hands and knees, distraught, unable to show your face.” He does not say that.

Shame is solely a game of the world.

Instead, He was hung on a tree, put there by people like me, who were me. Not by the outlaws, but by the ones who live their lives by the law. He was shamed so that we could be shameless; bruised so that we could be blessed; forsaken so that we could be forgiven.

So, when sin tempts you to despair, when the darkness in you is paralyzing, look to your Wounded Healer- not to your sin.

Cast them on Jesus.


© January 13, 2013. Alyssa Bell.

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What is truth?

Rest assured, this is not to be a long exposition. This is not an apologetical scribbling about “absolute truth”. This is not a story of us versus them.

This is quite simple:

We cling to truth because truth is good. Truth is hope. Truth is purpose.

But what is it? We’re obsessed with it but are we sure of what it is?

Unfortunately, this is often how we see truth, how we “fight for” truth:

“I’m right.”

“You’re wrong.”

“I know what I’m talking about.”

“You are a bumbling idiot.”

Jesus called himself the truth. “I am the way, the TRUTH, and the life.” Why is it so easy for us to read and recite these intensely dense statements and sum it up with: FOLLOW JESUS.

Yes, PLEASE! Follow Jesus because He is the ONLY way, the ONLY life. And yes, the ONLY truth.

Please don’t misunderstand what I am saying here: God’s word is truth. It has been tried by time and proven true by sacrifice.

The Gospel of John. Chapter 1. Jesus is the Word of God.

Jesus- God With Us-came to live among us as the word and thereby showed us, taught us truth. He taught us about the character of God. Jesus was, is, will ever be the incarnation of the Holy God.

Jesus is not doctrine.

So, why have we so readily abandoned truth for doctrine?

We are confused. Doctrine is not truth. Doctrine is a series of teachings based upon truth.


Jesus is the one whom we are to model. Doctrine does not have a name. It does not have a face. It is not sinless. It is not the only son of a Holy God. It is not our savior, although many of us wish it were.

Let us remember that the truth profits us nothing if it is not given with love. Neither does wisdom. Without love, we are a bunch of white noise.

Jesus told us that they would know us by our love- not by our denomination, not by our strict adherence to rules- by our love.

Have we forgotten that we are losing this battle? Have we forgotten that people are hell-bound? Have we forgotten that we are in this war zone as a community? Or do we just simply not care?

Does the idea of “evangelism” make us cringe, slump back in our chairs but the idea of being “right”, of “putting someone in their place” puff up our chests?

Why have we forsaken Jesus’ commandment to love one another in order to cast stones of judgment at one another’s faces?

I used to believe that the church was the best place to be. This beautiful community of little Jesuses, bustling about, patching up one another’s wounds, feeding the bellies of those whose are empty. Yet here we are, the precious church that Christ established upon His ascension to Heaven, the community left when the dust settled to mirror the person of Jesus. Here we are slitting each other’s throats and whispering dirty lies, with smiles on our faces.

Writing that hurts. In all sorts of ways. It hurts because I know that it’s true because I’ve felt it. It hurts because I know that it’s true because I’ve done it.

Then, I remember.

Jesus taught us how to pray. He showed us the truth. He said we must ask our Father to, “Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors.” Just as Christ has forgiven you so you also MUST forgive one another.

So we must forgive. We must exercise grace if we wish to receive it.

Let us remember that the Pharisees thought they were “right”. They believed they knew the truth. But Jesus said to them, “Woe to you!”

So instead, let us remember the One who brought, taught, showed us Truth. Let’s refocus. Let’s be marked by Jesus- who is our truth, who is our life. Let’s be marked by what He was marked by; let’s be marked by love and grace.

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Sticks & Stones.

Jesus told us to put down our stones of judgement and pick up our crosses of humility.

I’m not sure that I like that idea.

Crosses are heavy & hard, blister-causing & back-breaking. Stones are light, always accessible, & easy to throw.


Why is it that we who stand on, root our lives into the ideas of forgiveness and grace live so far from them?

Why is it that I spend my nights, knocking down God’s door pleading for forgiveness and my days daydreaming about punching someone’s lights out in order to “teach them a lesson”?

We are not God. Thank God. I am not God.

It is not our duty or purpose to dole out judgement and consequence for sin.

Let. It. Go.

That’s not our job.

Beware! The scriptures warn.

Be+Aware= Beware.

Beware lest you fall into temptation yourself! Beware lest you think too highly of yourself. Beware.

For the first time in my life, I understand why our churches are empty. It is not because of Jesus. People do not have a problem with Jesus. It is because the hearts of so many believers are empty of the Spirit and full of themselves.

He is not a trick candle. He is a furnace. But stifling it over and over and over, quenching it, putting it out on purpose will only keep it at a slight smolder.

Do we not long for forest fires of the Spirit’s moving in our lives?! Do we not long to see salvation songs sung, sinners meet their Savior?

Well then drop the stones and pick up your crosses. Bear the burden of the depth of your sin. Past. Present. Future. Marvel at the grace that has set you free. Be thankful.

Then, share it. As a friend, as a coworker, as a stranger. Share it:

“This is where you are. This is where I WAS, where I AM. But, I have THIS. I have Jesus.”

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