Alyssa Sellers


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Coming Out of the Clarkson Closet

closetI was a closet Kelly Clarkson fan.

American Idol premiered my senior year of college. I saw pieces of a few episodes and saw enough to know I hated it and everything it stood for. My friend Dee, on the other hand, was a huge fan, so I heard Kelly beat out Justin via the TV in Dee’s Mom’s minivan while we were stuck in traffic moving out her college stuff.

Dee, of course, bought her first CD and I rolled my eyes every time we listened to it that summer. But by album number two, Kelly was winning me over. And I found myself, a few years later, one slow Friday afternoon admitting to my cubemate, Casey, that there was that one Kelly Clarkson song I kinda liked. He, in turn, begrudgingly admitted to digging one of her tunes, too.

Casey and I are both music snobs and so this mutual admission was sorta a big deal. And the follow up online search to figure out which two songs we actual liked was on the side of scandalous. So much so, that when a team manager walked in and ask us what we were doing, we both averted our eyes and turned brilliant shades of red.

I came out of the Clarkson Closet in 2011.

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Lessons of Love: Start with a Smile

Smiling

 

Downtown Portland is filled with people who want something from you.

They want your name on a petition, they want you to buy their new product, they want you to sign-up to support an international child or an environmental cause, they want your money for a Tri-Met pass, dog food, beer, weed, human food, a hostel, etc., or they want you to repent and follow their Jesus who hates a long list of people groups they have proudly printed on their sandwich boards and canvas signs.

Residents of this economically diverse neighborhood will encounter at minimum three requests a day for something from them. Consequently, residents of this neighborhood don’t look up. They don’t make eye contact. They don’t engage with one another. Continue reading


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From Creepy to Etsy: Some Thoughts on Revelation

b499c-etsynamehangerThe book of Revelation use to seriously freak me out.

A. The imagery can be sorta creepy.
B. I really don’t understand what is happening in parts of it. And I’m not so sure I want to.

However, there are some parts I can really get behind. Like the section where Jesus introduces himself to each church. It is unique and personal to each community as if he is saying, “This is how YOU know me, this is your UNIQUE relationship with me.” And he does know them; he calls them out on the specifics of what each is doing right and on what each is doing wrong. Continue reading


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Making Peace with Psalm 23

greenpasturesandstillwaters

Where I grew up most, kids learned the 23rd Psalm. I think they had to in catechism. Where I grew up, all the school buses altered their routes to include a stop at the Catholic Church on Mondays for catechism classes. Because of where I grew up, I heard that Psalm recited as rote and therefore I didn’t much care for that Psalm. Also it talked about valleys of death and rods and staffs, and hearing that over and over and over again sorta creeped me out.

Where I live now, I do full time ministry through my church by encouraging and supporting university students and other transients of my downtown Portland neighborhood in a variety of ways. To do this work, I raise my own support. I sorta suck at this aspect, but that’s another story for another time. And now I have an agent for my book so I’m retooling my book proposal which means an enormous amount of research and writing and editing and feelings of inadequacy. Again, another story for another time. And I also have a life full of relationships with people not connected to anything mentioned above that I try to maintain. I guess you could say I’ve got some stuff going on. Continue reading


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Different but Equal

39e1a-differentbutequalvertYou and I are different. That’s for certain.

We grew up in different places. We watch different TV shows. We listen to different music. But we are equal. We are equal because each of us has made poor choices and in doing so has failed at loving God, other people, and ourselves well.

I am sassy and stubborn and I seriously struggle with dependence on God alone. I make poor choices. My poor choices hurt people, they hurt me. Your poor choices do the same. Our choices are different but our need to be forgiven makes us equal.

Not a single one of us has it all together. And we never will. We will still be human, no matter our age. Continue reading


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I’m a Liberal and other Admissions

My Name IsIn a conversation with a friend this fall, she admitted to me that she was a lesbian. I admitted to her that I was a liberal. “Feels good to say it out loud, doesn’t it,” she said. Later that evening I sent a text message to a mutual friend that read, “We tossed around a couple of L words this afternoon, mine was liberal.”

The deal is that I knew this about my friend, not because someone outted her to me, but I just kinda knew. None of us are as good at hiding our true selves from one another as we like to think we are.

Still, my friend didn’t have to tell me, but it was good that she did, for both her and me. I don’t know why, but there is something powerful about verbally admitting who you are, even if everyone else has known for a long time. So here I go: Continue reading


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When Love Looks Ridiculous

Finals Survival Kits

There are elements of the ridiculous about you…” ~ Mark Darcy in Bridget Jones’s Diary

On an open suitcase filled with 40 brown paper bags hangs a hastily handmade sign stating, “Finals Survival Kits” in the hallway outside a meeting room in a hotel in downtown Portland. My life is a little ridiculous. Hours of work and a surprising amount of struggle have resulted in this strange tableau.

Once a term we collect donations from members of The Groves Community to create these kits, these small brown paper sacks filled with exam supplies, pencils, candy, granola bars and cracker and fruit snacks. After I purchase the supplies based on revenue collected, we gather to assemble the kits. Students pick them up on the following Sunday to hand out to their friends during class the week before finals. This is our tangible way to share God’s love with the students in our neighborhood of downtown Portland. Well, this time 40 out of the 30,000 students.

And now, as I stand in a worship service singing about the sacrifice Jesus made for me, I think of how tiny and ridiculous this offering in the hallway outside is in comparison. Continue reading


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Remembering That I Forget

My Christmas Tree ~ Portland, Oregon 2012

I live in that magical land where Christmas trees grow. Oregon is the nation’s biggest producer of Christmas trees and harvested over 6 million in 2011 and , sadly, I did not purchase one of them. Last year, I thought I was broke and would be gone too long in December to purchase a tree. This year I have a whole new appreciation for broke-ness and will be away from my home for a week but I am not letting this deter me.  My friend Belinda, a graduate student at Portland State, offered to drive me to a Christmas tree farm just outside the city to pick up a tree and to celebrate the completion of her finals.

As soon as I stepped out of the vehicle and onto the parking lot, I knew I made the right decision. The smell of Fir trees enveloped me and I shouted, “I LOVE CHRISTMAS TREES!” Thankfully it was a rainy Tuesday afternoon and no one else was around.

Belinda and I set out in search of this year’s perfect tree. When I first saw my tree, I impulsively burst into, “O Tannenbaum!” However, not wanting to make a hasty choice, I tied a bright red bag to a branch and walked on. Eventually after much deliberation, I chose the tree that inspired my song.

I spent the better part of a day decorating this tree; mostly because I’m a perfectionist but also because I’m sentimental. As I unwrapped ornaments that had been unfairly confined for two years, vivid memories flooded my consciousness and I remembered the refrain from a song we sang during worship service on Sunday:

Though the world may see and soon forget
We will not forget who you are and what you’ve done for us.

But do we? Do we really remember? I believe that humanity as a whole is fairly forgetful and this is why God instructs us in all sorts of reminders like the celebration of Passover, hauling rocks from the dry bottom of the Jordan River to create an altar and participation in communion. These acts remind us of what God has done and reinforce for us the promises of what God will do.

This year, decorating my Christmas tree, was one of those reminders. As I hung up the lights, circled the tree with a garland made of old silver Mardi Gras beads and placed ornaments on branches, I could not help but to recall specific things God has done for me and as I remembered I began to feel joyful anticipation for all of the things God is going to do. This, my friends, is worshiping fully.


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Super Storms Suck

June 2006 ~ Cameron, La.~ My Hurricane Rita Relief Team

It’s 9:30 PM Monday, October 29, 2012 in Portland, Oregon and I can’t stop checking Hurricane Sandy coverage. It’s bringing up quite a few emotions.

I cried at the first image I saw of water flooding a street this afternoon. It was of a street outside a friend’s work studio in Brooklyn. It is seven years after the horrible hurricane season of 2005 and still I cry. Recovery is a slow sneaky process.

Weather is an equalizer. I’ve traveled through almost every state in this nation and I’ve noticed that we are all shockingly different.  And while we are all different we are all equal. Many of us have a devastating weather story, or two, about the great ice storm, flood, mudslide, wildfire, blizzard, sand storm, tsunami, or hurricane. Every storm is super to the one who lost a love one, community, home or experienced some level of damage.

Weather happens. And it sucks. Flooding sucks. Wind damage sucks. Rebuilding is work and sweat and tears. I know. East Coast Residents, you have hours, days, months and years to come that will be filled with various levels of sadness and frustration from many sources, including insurance and FEMA. The good news is, the likelihood of any one claiming that you should abandon your particular neighborhood and not rebuild is slim to none. So you’ve got that going for you. That’s probably a tad snarky and unfortunately that snark is a direct result of what I learned from my two super storms: weather can bring out the worst in people, turning them into insensitive jerks who say and do mean, spiteful, uncompassionate things; sometimes intentionally, sometimes not.

But more importantly, I learned that weather can bring out the best in people. Thousands of volunteers helped out my small community, most of whom knew nothing about us. Humanity never ceases to amaze me.  So, as I go to bed tonight, I hold you, East Coast folks, in my prayers. A handful of you I know by name and have shared many a laugh with. Most of you I know absolutely nothing about but, I want all of you to know that I am sorry this is happening to you. I want you to know that you are loved, even when it doesn’t feel like it. You are not forgotten, you are not abandoned. Your hurt is real and valid but it won’t last forever, I promise. Although, I can’t guarantee it won’t sneak attack you occasionally.


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Walk In Love

Red Square ~ Moscow, Russia ~ March 2008
I really love John’s second book. When I was at my lowest, this book helped me claw my way back up. Consequently I’ve probably read this book a good deal more than any other in the bible.

Back in 2010 I was in desperate need of divine direction, so I dove back into to it and was struck by the second half of verse six:

 “…his (Jesus) command is that you walk in love.”

So, yeah, that is easy, walk in love, right, right.  Yet, “Walk In Love” is a way more positive credo than “Meets – It’s Where It’s At” which is what I had taken out of 2008‘s closet and dusted off special for 2010.

This salute to the uninspired is rooted in the annual review structure at my first HR job. Getting a ‘meets’ meant you were doing just enough, you weren’t ‘exceptional,’ but you weren’t ‘needs improvement’ either. Meets was mediocrity at its best. I’ve lived most of my life in the exceptional range, but toward the end of 2007 I was questioning why and wondering where it had gotten me. I decided that maybe meets was where it was at. Less expectation meant less let down, less heartbreak and my young little heart felt it had had its share. I resolved that in 2008 I was going to lower my expectations and reap the mediocre benefits.

That year turned out to not be a “meets” kind of year so the salute didn’t get a lot of play. Therefore, I felt it was still pretty fresh and ready for a new release in 2010.

But then on that day in February in 2010, I decided, instead, to go with God and walk in love.

There is no promise of destination in this new credo. No direction other than to go and walk and while doing so, love. He is not asking me to perform a miracle or do anything extraordinary, but to obey him in love.

Oswald Chambers wrote, “It is inbred in us that we have to do exceptional things for God; but we have not. We have to be exceptional in the ordinary things, to be holy in mean streets, among mean people and this is not learned in 5 minutes.”

Compared with the billions that have inhabited the earth the Bible only highlights a few people’s stories. There are people we never read about who pleased God by doing this extraordinary thing of living by faith in him – day in and day out. They milked cows and delivered their product to people while praising God for sun and rain. They strung telegraph cable across the county loving everyone they met. They built subdivision and lived gracious lives. They sat at a desk and entered information into spreadsheets and let God’s light shine through them even when they sometimes struggled to breathe.

They didn’t slay giants, or build ships that saved the animals of the world. They loved God and moved as he wanted them to. And through loving him they loved others and God was proclaimed throughout their blocks, streets, neighborhoods, cities, towns, states, countries, continents, hemispheres – the world. They were generous with their lives because God was generous with his leading; prompting others to be generous too. I think we want some huge event, some grand adventure or reckoning. But on the whole, for billions of people it just isn’t that way. God asks that we be faithful in everyday things, everyday.

God asks that we walk in love. Since that day in February, I have; or at least, I try to.