Alyssa Sellers


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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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Waiting isn’t for the Weak

Pink Tree of Portland

Today is the 30th Birthday of one of my favorites. She is handling it way better than I did.  Today, she posted on Facebook: “I’ve been looking forward to 30 since 25 so I’m über-excited about this particular birthday.”

I, on the other hand, went a little, “Oh-my-pants-I’m-turning-30-and-I’ve-failed-at-life,” kind of crazy. I went for a walk on the waterfront along the Willamette River and admitted to God that I felt like I had failed because I didn’t have an awesome career or a fabulous marriage/family. In fact, I was nowhere close to either of those realities and I was a week away from 30 – unemployed and severely single.

God gently replied, just on the north side of the Morrison Bridge, near the pink tree where I often hear God’s responses;
 “You’re wrong. Failing, for you, would be already having those things. You are waiting for a reason. For something better. For me.” Continue reading


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Space and Time: One of the Reasons I do College Ministry

Almost 11 years ago I sat in the front of a car at the Lake Charles Boardwalk and officially ended a two-year relationship with the one man who has ever seriously considered marrying me.

It was one of the hardest decisions I ever made. I wasn’t sure if I would ever be loved that much by another man, but I knew that he and I weren’t best for each other. I made it holding on to a truth that the life I was currently living was not the one God wanted for me so I said no to this man and journeyed on with Jesus.

After 10 years and multiple relationships, I am nowhere closer to marrying my helper than I was then but I have had an amazing adventure.

It’s funny how big this one decision was/is still in my life. It shaped a lot of the woman I have become. I left that relationship through the faith that God wanted to give me something different, that God wanted to give me his best. I still believe this. This pivotal moment, this moment that set my life on a completely different course, happened in college. This has a lot to do with why college ministry means so much to me, why Portland State University has never left my heart.

During the fall term when I made this decision, there was a church and a retreat and, therefore, space and time for God to meet with me. Space and time for God to pull me aside and remind me of how much he loves me how much he cares for me and how much he is faithful.  To remind me how he never left and still wants to give me his best.

God moves people – sometimes we don’t have to do anything but be there.
 

This is why I raise support for what I do. This is why I’m OK with barely paying my rent every month. I want to be there, to give students space and time to meet with God and continue on their journeys becoming the incredible men and women God created them to be.

Students helping students move in at Portland State ~ September 2012

Don’t overlook the obvious here, friends. With God, one day is as good as a thousand years, a thousand years as a day. God isn’t late with his promise as some measure lateness. He is restraining himself on account of you, holding back the End because he doesn’t want anyone lost. He’s giving everyone space and time to change.” ~ 2 Peter 3:8-9 The Message

So you want to support my position:
1.Go to Give section of www.thegroveschurch.com
2.Click the Donate button to give online via PayPal
3.Write PSU Position in the special instructions section

PS: Today is the first day of classes for the Fall Term at Portland State. Go Viks!


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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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Time Is Wastin’, Time Is Walking

Rome, Italy ~ 2010

Until a year ago, when I heard the word manna, my first thought was of the the people of Israel complaining about it in the song “So You Wanna Go Back to Egypt” by Keith Green; “Manna again?!” They were tired of, and frustrated with, the same old stuff.

They had forgotten that manna was a miracle.

“The manna test was the test of normal. Every miracle, if you’re blessed and lucky enough so that it lasts in your life and you get to keep it, becomes normal. And then it doesn’t seem like such a miracle,” writes Rabbi Naomi Levy  in in her book, “Hope Will Find You.” page 70

In the eighth chapter of Deuteronomy, Moses presents the idea that God had his people wander for years to test them and humble them so that they could live well in the days ahead of them; to teach them and truly refine them. God was bringing them into a really wonderful place, a place He prepared, a place they did nothing to earn or deserve.  In this place, they will need to remember who provides for them so they wouldn’t think too highly of themselves, but, instead give thanks and praise to God. 

Time is my manna. I’ve looked at time as an enemy for too long. Time is a gift from God and a miracle. It is not something I need to overcome or beat.

In “Call Nothing Small” Mary Langford, a Licensed Professional Counselor, shares her disappointment in the length of time it would take her husband to recover from an eye surgery.

“We always want things to happen quickly, don’t we? Even when we pray for patience, we want it right now! …  A phrase I often use in the counseling office is: “Time is your friend.” In time, difficult teenagers grow into responsible young people, marriage partners forgive each other of wounds to their relationship, grieving families learn how to carry the memory of their loved one as they move on with life, those who’ve gone through divorce pick up the pieces and make a new beginning. But all these things happen by a process, often one that is slow and painful, and one in which it is sometimes hard to keep trusting that God is at work for good in our lives.”

She ends with a quote by Andrew Murray, “Say, (God) brought me here. It is by His will I am in this strait place, and in that fact I will rest. He will keep me here in His love and give me grace to behave as His child. Then He will make the trial a blessing, teaching me the lessons He intends for me to learn. In His good time, He can bring me out again – how and when He knows.” pg. 93-94

“God gave you manna to eat in the wilderness, something your ancestors had never known, to humble and test you so that in the end it might go well with you.” Deuteronomy 8:16 NIV


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Time Is On Your Side

726a9-books014lightA little boy is wailing in the courtyard of my apartment building. I live above a daycare and at least twice a day the children are brought to the courtyard to play. This child had been hysterically crying for well over 20 minutes. Consolation will not come. Many have tried, I’ve heard them, but it’s of no use.

I imagine this is what five of my friends have felt off and on over the last few weeks. They all have lost their mothers to illness; four of them after months of watching cancer ravage a beautiful body and one rather unexpectedly. The pain is fresh and deep for all.

All have also found hope in knowing their mothers are in a glorious place where they can yell with joy and see beauty again. I imagine these two wonderful women meeting each other in heaven, sharing stories of their families with joy and love. I hear their children talk with such hope about where their mothers are; the light in their eyes inspiring. I know that the ache in their souls is deep and will only be dulled over time.

I am really the worst at mourning. I want it to be over and done with at a pace that is inhuman. I encourage my friends to not be like me, to not rush through it but to embrace all that God wants to give them during this time; all the comfort, all the peace, all the love.

Time, after all, is a gift.

My friends all hold strong to the belief that this life is a staging area for the next. We are given time here to prepare ourselves and others for the next and longer, “here.”

In Anne of the Island by L. M. Montgomery, Anne sits up one evening with Ruby Gillis, a woman in her early twenties who will die the next day. Ruby says that she doesn’t want to die; she wants to go on living here.

“I’ve fought so hard to live – it isn’t any use – I have to die – and leave everything I care for.”

Anne sat in a pain that was almost intolerable. She could not tell comforting falsehoods; and all that Ruby said was so horribly true. She was leaving everything she cared for. She had laid up her treasures on earth only; she had lived solely for the little things of life– the things that pass–forgetting the great things that go onward into eternity, bridging the gulf between the two lives and making of death a mere passing from one dwelling to the other–from twilight to unclouded day. God would take care of her there–Anne believed–she would learn–but now it was no wonder her soul clung in blind helplessness to the only things she knew and loved. Chapter 14 ~ The Summons

After talking a bit more Anne leaves and on her walk home sums the evening up with this:

The little things of life, sweet and excellent in their place, must not be the things lived for; the highest must be sought and followed; the life of heaven must be begun here on earth.

Sue Erickson lived her life in that place. She left explicit instructions on how no unneeded expenses should be spent on her burial so that all of the money could go to help the people in India for whom she cared immensely.

In the summer of 2004 Sue and a few of my friends went to Hong Kong for a conference and service opportunity and met a man who was a spiritual leader in a community off the south east coast of India. They developed a grand relationship and when disaster struck in December of that year, our church community began to work to help that community. The first donations brought aid in the form of rice and fishing nets. The continued work over the last seven years has brought new life to hundreds of people in that area through teaching sewing skills, hygiene and the lifesaving word of God.

Sue worked an extra day a week giving that day’s wages to the impoverished widows, women, children and outcasts she loved and served in India. A memorial fund has been set up to continue that work.

The week she was supposed to leave for her second trip to India Sue learned she had cancer. She never saw India or the people she loved there again. I believe she will see those friends one day. Those friends and many more who found life because of her sacrifice.


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I Say A Little Prayer



Portland, Oregon ~ Winter 2011

January 12, 2011

God loves me. He created the whole universe. He set time in to motion; surely he can adequately orchestrate my life.

God, please help me stay out of the way. Please help me listen and follow. Thank you for this past year. It was more wonderful than I could have ever imagined. So much more than I would have envisioned on December 23rd a year ago. Help me to always remember your truths and the truths of promises kept in my life. Thank you for sharing glimpses of my future with me. Thank you for desires and dreams. Thank you most of all for loving me, this jumbled ball of unfaithful, unworthy, insecurity. You love me all the same. I am yours. That is a wonderful feeling! When I look back at what you’ve done to get me here, I am amazed. When I think back to last January and my anxiety I am humbled. Your plans are so much better than mine. Thank you for not letting me have my way.

January 12, 2012

Ditto.