Punitive versus Restorative


Recently, my life has been filled with recovery time. August is a busy time for parents and teachers. School starting and renewing routines take a lot out of us. August also happens to be the month that I begin searching for sponsors for the annual Autumn March for ALS. I have to take several days to recover from the bursts of activity. This affords me lots of reading time. I am currently reading four books as well as daily scriptures and reflections. At the Alley Casa last night we had a debate on whether to move a smart TV into my bedroom. Sal the ALS Gal, me, was all for it. I told him I could lie in bed and just watch whatever. Like most other Americans I am into binging shows, you know like overindulging. My husband reminded me by saying, “Sarah, why did you not allow the kids to have TVs in their rooms while they were growing up?” Needless to say, I don’t have a smart TV in my bedroom. It would keep me from a lot of productivity like reading four books at a time. So I am missing out on some great TV shows but I am also writing which is even better.

One of the books that I am currently reading has brought up the topic of punitive versus restorative justice within Christianity. God in the old testament is very punitive but always loving. The idea of doing something to receive salvation has been ingrained into us. Oftentimes we are too focused on the individualistic aspect of Christianity instead of the communal aspect. The Western culture we live in is so competitive. We want to say you are in and you are out. It is this way not that way. Our popular culture is feeding into the selfish individuality as well. You know it’s all about me. Just like Eddie Murphy has said before in his stand up routine, “What have you done for me lately?” Look at our broken justice system with overflowing prisons and jails. There needs to be a paradigm shift. There needs to be rehabilitation. Many of us have loved ones who have been a part of this broken system. Often times people come out of the system so broken they are not repairable. They sink deeper into debauchery. I fear it is just a way to separate people from main stream society and just throwing them away. I don’t think that Jesus ever threw anyone away. He was drawn towards the broken. My heart hurts for all of the broken that are living in cages. What is worse is they are trapped within a consciousness of defeat. Don’t get me wrong I’m not saying let all the rapscallions loose. I’m saying that there could be rehabilitation and education and most of all love to help these hurting individuals. Kudos to my community for people and non-profits like Tiffany Boyd, Sue Ann Cloar, Judy Boehmler, Transitions, and Matthew 25:40. We are reaching out and try to rehabilitate with love.

Restorative justice is not a new concept. It is involving those that are betrayed with the betrayer. Working out a way to educate each other on the cause of the betrayal. Both sides work on a solution to help avoid further trespasses. It helps people figure out why they are doing things that are against moral precepts. It helps to build skills that many children are not getting these days because of our broken family structures. It helps to build relationships with adults who in turn learn forgiveness. These adults see how people become broken and immoral. I remember a principal who told me I wish I had more teachers like you who tried to understand where children are coming from each day. It would definitely be an eye-opener. He said that most teachers want these children just paddled but that’s only part of trying to correct bad behavior. After all other attempts are exhausted, then the paddling was a part of our restorative justice. I genuinely cared about each of those children. Rarely, was a paddling given. I wanted them to grow and to choose to be the good not forced into silence or submission. I rarely had a child that could not read my heart and try to be the best they could be. It’s about relationships. It’s about community. It’s not about groups or individuals who carry the right way to salvation. This is where we are broken in our Christianity. We are too busy trying to get on the right bus to ensure our salvation and we are leaving behind God’s chosen people: the poor, the addicted, the prostitutes, and the mentally ill. This is the short list of those left behind. We are not to gather on buses cheering and chanting our way to heaven because we made it. We are to be among all of those who are hurting and needy. There is no joy if there is still so much pain in our communities. To the least of these always enters my mind when I am rolling out around in my community. My mind is constantly whirling on the jobs that need to be done. I am constantly asking myself how can I help? How could I be the Christ within me to my little community? I want restoration. I know that I cannot eliminate all of the hurt, but I could help those that are on my path. Some may say “Bah humbug! Ms. Alley you are wasting your time and resources on all these losers.” (Front row I hope this isn’t you. The back row kids are a handful but we love them.) You know why I don’t listen to the naysayers? I have proof in my Catholic Christianity: The prodigal Son, the book of Habbkuk, Ezekiel chapter 16, and Jeremiah chapter 31:31. God wants us to love and restore each other. His love cannot be put in a set of rules and regulations. We have it within us. We just need to give it to others in our community. I truly believe this is what we are called to do before we are to enter into our next adventure with God.

Today’s reflection was quite an academic one. As I have said before, I am always learning. I am constantly seeking a deeper connection with God. I am trying to live in joy not fear. Last but not least, I am taking each moment as a gift. It is so exciting to be a light bearer. Today’s saints I read about were infamous. They both were huge sinners. One had a concubine, was a lawyer, and a slave to his flesh until he was in his thirties. He then had an Awakening. The other was an escaped Ethiopian slave who had a dangerous gang that pillaged communities. He fled into the desert and encountered Christian Monks. He was educated on the way, the truth, and the light. He had a change of heart. He still had a lot of anger. In one of his angry fits the Abbot took him to the roof top at dawn. He said, “Look! It takes time for the light to overcome the darkness.” Don’t lose heart. Where there is light there is always hope. Sinners do become saints. Can I get a amen back row?
Sarah Anderson Alley
Sal the Light-bearing Gal

Quotes of the day:
“Go away and sit in your cell, and your cell will teach you everything.”
St. Moses the Black
“You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in you.”
St Augustine of Hippo

Grapple

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Every day I try to learn a new word or expose myself to a random word. I started doing this a very long time ago. I remember reading a biography of Eleanor Roosevelt as a child. One of the things Eleanor did everyday was to pick up a dictionary and randomly shuffle through it and put her finger on a word. She would then use that word several times during the day. Thus, she added to her vocabulary. Today it’s rather easy for me to find a word of the day. Living with ALS, I have lots of electronic gadgets. One of those is Amazon Alexa. I just ask Alexa, “Hey Alexa, What’s my word of the day?” This week grapple was one of the words. It’s not a word that I did not know the meaning of but it is a word that has resounded with me this week. I even heard it at the Convocation Ceremony for my daughter yesterday. It was in Dr. Hass’s speech, the president of Rhodes College.

This past week has been harrowing and that is an understatement. This is the week that most college students take flight. They go to college to begin their new chapter. They leave behind the comforts of home. The times that seemed so aggravating are being reconsidered and light bulbs are going off in a lot of 18 year old students’ heads. They are beginning to understand that things don’t just happen. Parents annoyingly giving advice and doing all of the little things that magically happen in a household from keeping the bills paid to stocking the pantry packed with all of the best snacks. Granted, our little adventure trying to gather all of the necessities to help our little bird feel as comfortable as she possibly can should have began probably two months ago. Ah we have weeks, let’s just put it off for another day. As the time for departure crept ever so closer, we were in panic mode trying to get everything accomplished from paying tuition and deciding on which meal plan to choose and finishing learning modules that were required before she could enter campus and receive her dorm key. It had me grappling for my sanity. Needless to say, we were rolling down highway 51 toward campus while my little bird pecked away on her laptop trying to finish her module learning courses. Yes, she is an honor student, but boy oh boy, this past few weeks we were definitely learning challenged. We faced a learning curve together and hopefully next year this will all go so much smoother. Hopefully, there will not be much grappling next August when she returns to school.

My little bird is grappling, too. She has been in her new nest for the last two nights. She is surviving on black coffee with no creamer or sugar because yes you guessed it was overlooked. She is desperately searching for her group. She is grappling desperately. When you open up your phone and the text from your daughter says “I’m so lonely” your heart moves to your throat and forms a huge lump. What can you do or say to help your sweet little bird to be brave? First, you say a prayer. You asked God to give you the words. You know what? He does. It has to be from God because I couldn’t make this stuff up. Saturdays I spend studying the gospel for Sunday service. I teach the high school students so I want to be prepared and use the gospel within the lesson.

Here is part of what I read:

Ebed-melech, a court official, went there from the palace and said to him: “My lord king, these men have been at fault in all they have done to the prophet Jeremiah, casting him into the cistern. He will die of famine on the spot, for there is no more food in the city.” Then the king ordered Ebed-melech the Cushite to take three men along with him, and draw the prophet Jeremiah out of the cistern before he should die.

Jeremiah was cast into a cistern into the muck. He was stranded, away from every comfort he had ever known, and left to die. I’m sure my little bird felt like Jeremiah when we left her. It was so hard for her to feel Jesus. Where was her Ebed-melech? As I typed positive messages I urged her to look around whatever she was at her PA group tonight and find more Ebed-melechs. I assured her they were there. They may not be similar in dress, ethnicity, or gender but they were there for her to discover. She will create with the help of God a new community or family circle. She’s always been such a shy bird with strong morals. She has always been mature for her age as well. I chuckled because I have always called her a granny. By the end of our conversation, she was ready to step out there and be brave. She said, “I am going to find people who like me for me. I am valuable. I can live my Faith. Come Holy Spirit, Let’s do this!” And I breathed a sigh of relief. I had got the words that she needed to hear. Of course, it was more than just the Bible verse. It was a lifetime of learning how to be myself as a Catholic Christian woman in the world. I am still a work in progress just as she is. But thanks be to God that He gives me the words and wisdom to help my precious daughter.

I know a lot of parents right now are grappling. Their nest at home maybe empty or have a few little birds left, but one thing is for sure if you look for your strength in the right places everything is going to be all right. I didn’t say you wouldn’t miss your birds like crazy and even shed tears often. I just say that the arrow from your bow will travel straighter if you have a bow created with the love of God. Those type of bows have a stupendous strength filled with morals, principles, and love. It will give them the accuracy and speed to hit the target of their goals they create for their lives.

Here’s what I have learned:
Complete your financial counseling early in the summer before the few weeks before classes begin.
Make list and do research of what not to take to college.
Find top ten lists of the essentials for college early and not two weeks before leaving; purchase them in a timely matter.
Be positive always even when you want to grapple them around the neck.
Be brave when you say goodbye even though you your heart is shredding inside of your chest and you are leaving a piece of it there.
Each time you think of them, whisper a prayer. I promise it is heard. Remember that birds are made to fly.

Sal the College Mom Gal
Sarah Anderson Alley

Quotes of the day:

This quote reminded me of the speech made by the president of the college. We are all community.

“I hold that every poor man, every vagrant, every beggar is Christ carrying his cross. And as Christ, we must love and help him. We must treat him as a brother, a human being like ourselves.”

—St. Alberto Hurtado

“Walk your faith. Live it the way it should be lived. If you do you will march closer to the ideals of Rhodes College. Our Catholic faith is inclusive not exclusive.”
Sarah Anderson Alley

From Martha to Mary


Reflecting today on my readings, I realize that I have become a Mary. I watch the flurry of social media posting about back to school and I visit the season before ALS. I was such a Martha. I enjoyed every busy moment of every busy teaching day from inservices preparing our minds for another year of teaching to the bone-tired days of May. I admit I offen scoffed at teachers who were like “Woah, slow down! You are going to burn out before September.” They had had their seasons being Marthas and understood the value of reflecting and pacing. Teaching is a very competitive profession. Don’t let anyone ever tell you it’s not. We want to do our very best every single moment of every single day. We looked at the new teachers each year and tried to glean new methods they have learned that maybe we had never heard of before. We looked at the experienced teachers and their ease of scheduling and confidence eager to learn from the them. We tried to figure out just how were they so cool and confident hoping they would share some of their “tricks of the trade.” By default, I think most teachers are Marthas. Busyness is the nature of the teaching profession. There truly is never a dull moment. There truly is never a moment of peace until you gather your things and make it to the parking lot to your car. And if you’re raising your own children, then another form of chaos ensues until bedtime. Whew! Prayers for all of the teachers all of the time.

I am now a Mary. I sit still everyday from 7 a.m. until lunch. My body is still except for my eyes and the little bit of arm function I have left. I read, think, reflect, pray, and on good day write. It truly is the better part that Jesus spoke of to Martha. I just had to realize that and let go of the bitterness and sadness when my Martha days were over. I trusted that God had a plan for me that was good even though ALS was part of that plan. My days at His feet are so fruitful. I listen and He guides me to new adventures.

To all of my Marthas that are beginning a new school year know that I’m praying for your success. I have not prayed for you all to be a 5 on the Teacher Evaluation but I am praying that God blesses you with patience, knowledge, and last but not least a big old heart to open up and embrace those precious souls that God has given you this year. I pray that each one will be filled with confidence, respect, and love for you. Now that I am a Mary I understand what is the most important thing about teaching. It is something eternal. It is something that will come up and hug you in the middle of a grocery store. It is something that will wait on you at a restaurant and tell you what a difference you made in their lives. It will stop you it public and show you pictures of its children. It may become a teacher and say you are the reason I became a teacher because I wanted to help others like you helped me. It may invite you to its wedding and let you be a guest of honor. It is something that will make a random post on your Facebook page or social media to say thank you so much for believing in me and most of all loving me. Rarely will it say thank you so much for helping me learn the Bill of Rights, but sometimes it will say that too. Although Martha was busy, Martha recognized God in her presence, in her heart, and in her vocation. So to all of my teaching Marthas, have a great school year. On your most trying days remember that every season will pass, do your best in every moment, love the unlovable(these are the ones who need the most love,) and when you begin your Mary season you will have so much love to sustain you to complete God’s plan for you. Remember it’s a good plan.

Sarah Anderson Alley
Sal the Embracing Mary Gal

Quotes of the day:
Research shows that there is only half as much variation in student achievement between schools as there is among classrooms in the same school. If you want your child to get the best education possible, it is actually more important to get him assigned to a great teacher than to a great school.
Bill Gates

Tutti Fruitti

IMG951555
Today I am thinking about fruit. Summers in the South give us lots of wonderful fruit: watermelon, cantaloupes, honeydew, peaches, grapes, strawberries, blackberries, and blueberries. Each summer my heart leaps when I see the roadside stands full of fresh produce. Besides fruit there are the garden treasures of tomatoes, peppers, okra, and several squash varieties. Summers of the South are so bountiful. It reminds me of the manna from heaven that God provided as the Hebrews fled through the desert. The treasures of this Earth are miracles from God. From manna to black-eyed peas, it is all a beautiful gift from God. Miraculous indeed.

Just as the Hebrews travel years through the desert surviving on manna, quail, and Holy water from stones, we get complacent with our daily miracles. We really take them for granted until the season has passed only then do we realize the sweet, savory tastes of fresh fruit and veggies are gone until next summer. The fresh produce of the summer becomes a memory in the winter. The roadside Farmers go back to their homes and farms to prepare for the winter and to plan it next year’s harvest. The miracles of their fields become a statistic compared to years prior. They note lessons learned and begin again taking time to reflect now their fields are fallow. We should do the same.

I know being a human is busy work, but we really ought take time to reflect and meditate on all the miracles in lives. We should fight to be in every miracle of every season God gives us. We should be thankful that he gives us manna every Sunday we attend church. Just like the Hebrews received double portions on Saturday so as to enjoy the Sabbath, going to meet with all our brothers and sisters at mass we are fed with the spirit and the body of Christ to go forth and enjoy the fruit of God’s bountifulness in our daily lives. Is the soil of your soul surrounded by vices that steal the good works? Is the soil of your soul too hard to fertilize and nourish good deeds? Is the soil of your soul tangled with deciect, fears, hurt, and hate so no seed of goodness can grow? We are all the fruit of God but do we have the strength to allow the ultimate gardener to cleanse the soil of our souls?
Take time to realize, reflect, and meditate on the miracles in your life.

Sarah Anderson Alley
Sal the Tutti Fruitti Gal

Quotes of the day:

A tree is known by its fruit; a man by his deeds. A good deed is never lost; he who sows courtesy reaps friendship, and he who plants kindness gathers love.
Saint Basil

The smallest seed of faith is better than the largest fruit of happiness.
Henry David Thoreau

Love is a fruit in season at all times, and within reach of every hand.
Saint Teresa of Calcutta aka Mother TeresaIMG951555

Storms

40 days with Sal
It is day 30 students! Where do I begin? Since I last wrote I have had a liver biopsy, a baptismal reception for my littlest grandson, severe pain, a stay in the hospital, visiting with a dear friend contemplating what this life is all about, and a hibernation at home to try to recuperate. The horizon is also full of events that involved our last bird graduating from high school. I am so glad that God will let me see this. This is one thing I prayed for when I became so sick. I wanted to just be able to see her graduate had to get her next season in college. Everything else is just a bonus.
We Catholics are still celebrating Easter. Isn’t that great! I think it is. Today was the tragic reading of the first martyr, Stephen. How he rebuked the crowd and tried to get them to see but yet they rushed him and stoned him to death. It is so hard to take criticism. It is so hard to tell those you love that there is a better way. There is a proper code to treat each other in ways that you want to be treated. There is something bigger at work in our lives. We need to open our ears and eyes. Today the reflection started with “all of our days” and this is what we work for students. We want “all of our days” to be useful and to be something that will live eternally. Something that will continue to spring forth beauty into the world long after we are gone from the Earth. If I were to die tomorrow, I feel satisfied. I feel like Stephen did. I feel that I have run this race very well. Do you understand how good this feels? How peaceful? I want you to feel this, too. I am still here hallelujah to give what little is left of me. It is an honor to be able to do so. Students you are still here, too. There is still so much work to be done. I know we all have spring fever and school is about to be out for the summer but we need to use “all of our days” to love and serve each other especially our families. This is where the greatest love begins.
Sarah Anderson Alley
Sal the Using Every Breath Gal
Thank you everyone for the prayers that brought me through this storm.
Quote of the day:
Carpe diem

Are we burning down the House?

Students, I really don’t know where to begin. I have had such turmoil the past week that it was hard to focus on anything. Do you have weeks like that? I’m sure you do. Sometimes we call it getting on the pity pot. Life has just been happening at such a breakneck speed lately that I am totally exhausted. I just like the poem by Robert Frost still have miles to go before I sleep. I remember weeks and days like this when I was healthier. I remember how bone tired I was. With a body ravaged with atrophy still going a hundred and fifty miles an hour makes for a great disaster. So today I am licking my wounds and getting on with it. Remember how I have been urging you to find a church home? This week could have never been possible without my church family. From painting with the youth group and the baptism and reception of my grandchild, it just would not have happened. Now let’s throw in my daughter’s senior prom along with a liver biopsy and voila we have an amazing train wreck.
This morning I read an article about church attendance falling from 70% to 50% since 1999. I witness it with many of my friends. I grew up without a church family. I know what it’s like not to have people to be there and want the very best for you and your future. I ask myself what is happening? When I read articles and listen to NPR news lots of horrible things are happening. Within the last few weeks there have been several churches burned and bombed. The areas have been geographically spread all over the world. Just in California yesterday there was a synagogue in which I shooter tried to kill the rabbi. Why? Three of the major world religions have suffered in the last few weeks with tragedies. Is this a way to blame God for what is wrong with the world? Or is this away to attack God hoping to rid the world of God? In the face of adversity we need more than ever Church families. We need God.
This past Sunday was a Divine Mercy Sunday. It is our continuation celebrating Easter in the Catholic Church. My grandson was baptized yesterday. It was so beautiful. I was so peaceful and full of praise and thanksgiving. To watch your child follow in faith with their own children is a miracle to behold. As I watched our George be baptized, I drifted back remembering the baptisms of my children. My promises to God to raise them it a godly way with rules and gifts of the sacraments. It really does take a village. It is so nice to have a village in which your child can grow and be loved. Students, I think this is one reason the world has gone so terribly wrong. We need to get back to our churches to revamp our villages. The center of our village needs to be God. The rules God gives are truly not to harm us. Can we turn back to God? Sal the Optimistic Gal knows we can.
Sarah Anderson Alley
Sal the Weary Gal
Quotes of the day:
About Jesus Christ and the Church, I simply know they’re just one thing.
Joan of Arc
“For I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord. They are plans for good, to give you a future and a hope.” Jeremiah 29:11

Eucharist

We are in the middle of our octave of Easter. This is the eight days following Easter Sunday. It is celebrated in the Catholic Church. Today’s readings were about the crippled man by the beautiful gate. He had been crippled from birth. He sat there every day of his life begging for help. Peter and John were still shaking from the events of Passover. Jesus had just been crucified. They felt all was lost. The man by the gate begged them for an offering. They said the only thing we will give you is what we have and that is Faith in Jesus Christ our Risen Lord. They told him to rise and walk into the temple. He did. These stories intrigue me. There are many times that I want to just rise and walk but that is not part of my life plan and I have accepted it. Instead I zip around in my scoot. I trust that there is more.
Today made me think about my journey of faith. My whole life I went to several different churches with family and friends. I never quite felt as if I fit in anywhere. After my first child, I told my husband that we needed to find a church home. I had taken my child to several churches and Bible schools and after school Christian programs on Wednesdays but never quite felt at home. My husband told me he would go if I would just go to the Catholic church. He had fallen away from the Catholic Church and was attending a nondenominational Church before we met. When I went to the Catholic church for the first time I had a feeling of reverence and peace. It was different. There were  rituals and of course the kneeling and standing but there was just something about it that felt real. I remember communion and everyone streaming to the front to receive it. My husband and I could not receive communion yet because I was not Catholic and our marriage was not blessed by the church yet. It took a while for me to come into the Catholic faith. I went through the RCIA program and waited patiently for our marriage to be blessed and his other marriages to be absolved. It was a long journey. There were times when I didn’t think I would ever be able to join my Parish in the Lord’s Supper. After two years, I was able to come into the church. At one point I almost gave up. But I am so glad that I didn’t. You know they tell you that good things are worth waiting for and that’s exactly how I feel about my faith.
Have you ever been to a Catholic Church? It is very different in that we are focused on worship at the altar. We are focused on connecting with God not so much our neighbors. What you wear is not important. It is all about the Eucharist, communion. Many people who visit don’t understand how powerful the Eucharist is. If you are visiting a Catholic Church and not able to take communion you may feel slighted, but don’t. Observe and follow along in the back of the hymnal. It doesn’t matter which Catholic Church you attend each one follows the same readings and patterns. I also find comfort in this. No matter where I go in the world I can meet Jesus on Sunday at Mass.To Catholics it is a very sacred, serious ordeal. I read the Bible verses from Corinthians today that explains exactly why we do not take communion lightly. You have to be informed in our faith before you take the bread and wine. We Believe at every Mass we are sitting at the Last Supper and our offerings are turned into the body and blood of Christ. If you don’t believe this and take the communion the Bible verse says it is very dangerous. You are placing judgment on yourself. That is why only those who learn about the faith and become Catholic are to take communion. Something in my Heart told me to explain this to you students. Being a Catholic it’s not a Secret Club but more like a Sacred Club. This is the one big difference between Catholicism and Protestantism. Other than that Christians regardless of their membership are very similar. We really have so much in common and arguing the bits just makes the devil happy. Students, I hope you find a church home. It is such a good place to be and it should be a place of acceptance and love. If it isn’t, then keep searching.
Sal the Catholic Gal
Sarah Anderson Alley
Quotes of the day:
“When another church can offer me the body and blood of Christ each Sunday, I may consider attending. No other Church can do that so that is why I choose to be a Catholic.”
Rachel Abigail Alley aka Chuck
“the very last thing I want to do is to unsettle in the mind of any Christian, whatever his denomination, the concepts — for him traditional — by which he finds it profitable to represent to himself what is happening when he receives the bread and wine. I could wish that no definitions had ever been felt to be necessary; and, still more, that none had been allowed to make divisions between churches.”
C.S. Lewis
1 Corinthians 11:26-29
A]s often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the death of the Lord until he comes.
Therefore whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord unworthily will have to answer for the body and blood of the Lord. A person should examine himself, and so eat the bread and drink the cup. For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body, eats and drinks judgment on himself.