Alyssa Sellers

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Heavy Burdened

Katmandu, Nepal ~ June 2011

I had this one day, four months ago, that was completely refreshing to my soul. I think it was because I didn’t move out of duty or obligation or what I thought was right or expected of me. I moved out of he unforced rhythms of God’s grace. I moved out of the core of who I am.

This day reminded me of the lesson I learned over a year ago in Nepal – don’t think, just do. I think too much. Perhaps my planning and calculation is worry disguised in pretty dress.  This seems to be the lesson I refuse to learn, and yet, God continues to present it to me.

Coming back onto campus back in January I didn’t really have a plan. I felt like Joshua in Jericho except I was walking around the South Park Blocks in prayer and waiting for the Lord. If there is one word I’ve gotten from God over the last two terms it is, “wait.”

“Pray and wait for me, Alyssa. Move where I move you. Let go and be free to be. Move with my current; it is safe and gentle for you. Watch and see what happens when you move freely in me.” This doesn’t look like other ministries I’ve seen. But that is OK, it’s more than OK, it’s God and God is good.

“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on Religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me – watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” ~Jesus in Matthew 11:28-30 The Message

Jesus didn’t have a strict business model. He moved where he was led by God and did what needed to be done at the time. As Enoch did many years before, Jesus walked with God.

The Voice version records this passage this way:
“Come to Me, all who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Put My yoke upon your shoulders – it might appear heavy at first, but it is perfectly fitted to your curves. Learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble of heart. When you are yoked to Me, your weary souls will find rest. For My yoke is easy, and My burden is light.”

“…perfectly fitted to your curves.” How much do I LOVE this?!

I’m nothing but curves and it is incredible to think this task I’ve been given by Jesus is perfectly fitted for me.

Now if only my bras were.

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Learning To Live By Letting Go

Somewhere in the Carolinas ~ October 2011

Sometimes pivotal thoughts occur to you while you are in the middle of an epic adventure, like traveling the lower half of the lower 48 states in a month with one of your best friends.

Sometimes you find yourself with no music, windows rolled down, staring out at the Appalachian Mountains just before peak fall foliage craving divine direction and thinking:

“Somehow we begin to believe the lie that this now, our current present, is the best there is, was, or ever will be. We forget that this current present, good or bad, is only for now. I’m currently on a 4 week road trip across America and “for now” is as vivid as the colors on the leaves outside my passenger side window. The leaves are changing and so am I.”

Sometimes, you hear God speak a week later, in a friend’s living room with strangers singing along to a guy playing the guitar. I write:

I hold too tightly to this smallness in my hand. “But it’s what I know,” I cry as I stomp and flail about.

“But it’s not what’s best,” God calmly replies.

“Is best ever gonna come?”

“If you let go, Alyssa, you have to let go. My best is too big for you to grasp with your fists grabbing so tightly to the smallness you continually try to hold. Please, let go. You can trust me. I know you, I want my best for you. My word is good. I am good. Let go.”

(One year ago today, my good friend Christy and I set out from Oregon on a four week road-trip to Philadelphia and back. This post is a result of that trip.)

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Ain’t No Mountain High Enough

Macchu Piccu with Wayna Piccu in Background ~August 2009

Sometimes, it’s the coming back down the hill that’s the hardest. You see something, you learn something, you experience something new and exciting, and then eventually you have to turn around and come back down to where you started.

When I climbed Wayna Picchu, the hill next to Machu Picchu, I had to write my name and country of origin on a ledger at the shack near the trail head. A rather ominous beginning. Walking up those tiny ancient steps, I couldn’t understand why the people going down didn’t give way. I figured it out soon enough. 

The view at the top overlooking Machu Picchu and the Urubamba River valley was breathtaking. After walking around the ruins on top and siting for a while to enjoy the view, we began our trip back down the hill and this is when I discovered that going back down was much harder than going up.  Maybe because going up I was hiking into the unknown. Maybe because looking up, I didn’t think about how these tiny little steps were perched precariously into the mountain face. Maybe, because now that I was going where I had already been, the thrill was gone and in its place returned my fear of heights and falling from them.

Maybe that’s what happened after Jesus’ fed the 5,000 on the side of a hill. When it was over, his followers had to go back down and take what they’d experienced and learned and go back to their work-a-day lives. I mean when was the last time you were in a place for an extended period of time over with 5,000 people? And even more astounding, when were all of those people fed to satisfaction with the equivalents of two peoples sack lunches?

Central Park Summer Stage seats 5,000 as does the McMenamin’s Edgefield Lawn.   The Gershwin Theater, the largest of Broadway’s theaters, seats 1,900 and the Keller Auditorium, Portland’s largest theater, seats 2,992. So, feeding 5,000 men (number doesn’t include the women and children in attendance) with only five loaves of bread and two fishes is rather epic.  Not to mention the life-changing experience of watching Jesus physically heal a few thousand people. Those 5,000+ in attendance were changed by that experience. The 12 men closest to Jesus, witnessing the miracle right in front of their eyes were changed as well.  And then Jesus sent them back down the hillside and out on a boat without him for a few hours.

Ride:Well Team Celebrating Success~ Portland ~June 2012

My church just hosted a team of Ride:Well folks. They rode their bicycles around 450 miles in five days to raise awareness and support for Blood:Water Mission. They are not the same people they were a week ago. But they are returning to lives and places that are relatively unchanged.

So what do we do with this? Well, eventually Jesus met his disciples at the bottom of the hill and when he did, one of them, Peter, walked on water. I pray y’all walk on water, too.

“Come,” he said.
Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus.
~Matthew 14:29

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The Shot Heard ‘Round the World

Yorktown Battlefield ~ October 4, 2011
Sometimes I deny my inner history nerd. Then, one day while traveling across the country, I find myself totally engrossed with every little thing the tiny village of Yorktown has to offer and I realize I LOVE HISTORY. Well, really, I love a good story and that pretty much is what history is. It is a little over a month since I took a National Parks tour of the Yorktown Battlefield and I find myself on the Library of Congress website reading a few of General George Washington’s letters.
I blame it on the entertaining and informative National Park Ranger who told us that six months before the United States’ victory at the Battle of Yorktown, George Washington declared in a letter that, …we are at the end of our tether, and that now or never our deliverance must come.

Now, having read a few of Washington’s letters it appears that the man could be quite the Debbie Downer. After five years of writing about this brutal war, I imagine him hunched over his desk trying to find a new way to describe the state of bad he was currently in and choosing “end of our tether.” It is quite the dire description when you think about it.

I never realized how overwhelming it must have been for Washington and the men of the revolution. They were in the middle of something where, for the most part, the outcome was not in their favor and, by many accounts, was fairly foolhardy. They had absolutely no guarantee of success.

Nonetheless, Washington and his men tenaciously held on to that tether and six months later saw the tide turn in their favor when on October 19, 1781 General Lord Cornwallis of the British Army surrendered in Yorktown. With this victory United States independence was secured and the course of world history was changed significantly. Two years later the war officially ended and Washington became the first president of this baby nation.

So, I’m in the middle, or maybe more accurately in the second third, of my history and, Mr. First President of the United States of America, you inspire me to hold on. I wonder if you also inspired the ladies of Wilson Phillips.

PS: Veteran’s Day is Friday. You should thank one.

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Sometimes, when the clouds and fog are just thick enough to blur the tree lines but not enough to block the sun, I believe I am in a fairy tale. I’m at the beginning of a good one – one that is brimming with possibility, I just know it.

This optimistic attitude is rather new for me. I’ve lived much of my life believing the lie that this now, my current present, is the best there is, was, or ever will be. I recently met a bunch of folks across the United States many of whom also feel the pressure of this lie. Sometimes, we forget that this current present, whether good or bad, is only for now. We forget that tomorrow, or even our next moment, is full of possibility. Driving through the Appalachian Mountains in Virginia during my recent four week road trip across the U.S. the concept of “for now” became as vivid as the leaves I viewed from my passenger side window. The leaves were changing and so was I.

I began 2011 with the goal of living in joyful anticipation, an idea based on Romans 8. After many months of my typical ridiculous anxiety, I think I am finally living an adventurously expectant God filled life full of joyful anticipation.