Are you a Jonah?

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Only 32 more days to go in our adventure! Did you do your homework? Are you still working on it today? If you are that’s totally fine. Don’t forget the other tasks that go with this unit: healthy choices, not judging others, pray for those that you have negative thoughts about, avoiding temptation, and having a forgiving heart. Can you imagine how much good will be put into the world after these 40 days?

Today’s lesson will start with a question. Does the world need a change? Think about this. I have been reading a lot lately. One of the readings suggests that the world has outgrown the need for Christianity or any religious beliefs. It really makes you think.

In my devotional this morning, I read about Jonah and the Ninavites. Students, I’m sure you all remember the story of Jonah. How he was running from God and was swallowed by whale. Remember?He heard God’s voice tell him that he should go and give the warning of repentance to the Ninavites. Jonah said, “No way Yaweh!” You see students, the Ninavites hated the Israelites. Jonah knew if he went that it would be a sure death for him. The Ninavites were partying like it was 1999. They had several gods that they worshipped and were having a fine time doing they whatever they wanted without consequences. Jonah knew if he came in and blew the whistle on this big party that they would rise up and pummel him. After three days in the belly of a big fish, he decided what the heck? I need to just go and face the music. On his way into the village he started his mission by telling those he met on the way to repent their sins and worship the one true God or all of Nineveh would be destroyed. To Jonah’s surprise by the time he reached the city even the king had had a change of heart. God poured his Mercy out for the Ninavites. Jonah was baffled. God reasoned that many of the Ninavites did not know right from wrong and gave them a chance to change their wicked ways. Does this sound familiar? Let’s add a little geography to this lesson. Nineveh is in modern day Iraq. At one time in history it was a very bustling, modern city. The culture there still celebrates Jonah’s three days in the belly of the whale by fasting.

Back to our question, does the world need a change like Nineveh? Think of all the atrocities that we see in our world: child pronography, human trafficking, drug addictions, children abandoned, neglected, exploited, and used, broken families, selfishness and materialistic worship, rampant ignorance, hate of education, governments that do not put the people first but the interest of the elite, corporate giants, prejudice of immigrants, and divisions of communities over issues that should be thought of for the greater good of humanity. I could keep going but I think you get the message. The world definitely needs a change in my opinion. How do we do it? It seems so overwhelming looking at the hurt and pain it our societies and cultures. On my mantle, I have a plaque that says, “If you want to change the world go home and love your family.” (Mother Teresa) ln my kitchen window, I have a small plaque that says do small things with big love. (St. Teresa of Alvia) I also have a plaque that I put out that says isn’t it great that we need not waste one more moment to make the world a better place. (Anne Frank) You may think that I am a little nutty, but I surround myself with reminders of what we need to do to make the world a better place. I feel called to this mission. I can’t peruse the internet or Pinterest without finding myself re-directed to a way to put more good into the world. I saw some light bulbs coming on in the back row. Yes, this blog is one of them. I physically may not be able to teach very long anymore but God has given me a platform. Back row I will forgive you for that comment about Nineveh being just a lotion and what is the big deal. ūüôā

I am on a roll. So let’s go a little deeper. What if everyone took care their family? What if we did just one small act of love each day? What if we all wanted a change? I understand many people and their arguments against religion or Christianity in particular. But the very basis of my religion, Catholic Christianity, is so simple. It is a life steeped in loving and caring for others. It’s just a quiet Love of all. That means loving the good, the bad, and the ugly. I never said it was easy. I just say that it’s simple in theory. Being a Christian is a very hard job. Remember Jonah? He ran. I do too sometimes. But eventually I come back to what is the right thing to do in any given situation. That’s right back row, love others as you would love yourselves.

Now the whole argument about is there a God? I have to say yes. I know that many will say bah humbug! Look at the list of atrocities in the world. How could there be a God that allows such horrible things to happen? Well students, He created us for good. He created us to be holy. How holy is the human race acting? Not very. It’s like blaming the teacher that you don’t learn anything when you never listen or do your homework. Students we have homework to do in this world. If we all do our part, we can change the world. I believe this. Do we have to be perfect? No, never. We are human, but we can try to do good things each day to create a better world. Of course we have homework back row, I’m still breathing aren’t I? Here it is. Think of one small the thing you can do to make the world a better place. Now, do it! Don’t be a Jonah and run!

Sal the Change the World Gal
Sarah Anderson Alley

Quotes of the day:

Every great dream begins with a dreamer. Always remember, you have within you the strength, the patience, and the passion to reach for the stars to change the world.
Ghandi

Every great dream begins with a dreamer. Always remember, you have within you the strength, the patience, and the passion to reach for the stars to change the world.
Harriet Tubman

A small group of thoughtful people could change the world. Indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.
Margaret Mead

Help young people. Help small guys. Because small guys will be big. Young people will have the seeds you bury in their minds, and when they grow up, they will change the world.
Jack Ma
You are educated. Your certification is in your degree. You may think of it as the ticket to the good life. Let me ask you to think of an alternative. Think of it as your ticket to change the world.
Tom Brokaw

I realized if you can change a classroom, you can change a community, and if you change enough communities you can change the world.
Erin Gruwell

No matter what people tell you, words and ideas can change the world.
Robin Williams
Please

Forgive

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Students, welcome to day 7 of our adventure. I hope you are figuring out who you are. I hope you are trying to be the best you you could possibly be. All of our assignments are designed to help us. Yesterday you had to think of five things that you like and five things that you don’t like. Back row I know you think that this is a silly assignment but in order to know who you are you have to know what you like and what you don’t like.
Let’s use me as a guinea pig. I like honesty, loyalty, humility, patience, and understanding. Now if you want to know what I don’t like did just think of the opposites of the five that I just listed. Help me out. What’s the opposite of honesty? What about loyalty? Now just do the same with patience, humility, and understanding. I know the back row is grumbling. Yes, it’s okay to like things like fast cars and fancy houses but I want to make the world a better place. I want to have a clean heart. If I clutter my heart with acquiring materialistic objects¬†then I will not have room for the things that really matter. We’ve all done this. Thinking if I could just have the right clothes or the right car oh, I’ll be so happy.I would like myself because everybody else will like me too. This is where as humans we are tricked in today’s culture. Be careful. Think about it like this do you think more people will like you if you have fancy clothes or if you are just honest and true and dependable? You see where I’m going with this. Yes back row I will give you another chance to make a better list.
Today’s readings contained The Lord’s Prayer. This will teach us a lot about today’s lesson. What are the things that stick¬†out in The Lord’s Prayer? Let’s look at Matthew 6:7-15. Get those highlighters out.
Jesus said to his disciples: “In praying, do not babble like the pagans, who think that they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them. Your Father knows what you need before you ask him.
“This is how you are to pray: / Our Father who art in heaven, / hallowed be thy name, / thy Kingdom come, /thy will be done, / on earth as it is in heaven. / Give us this day our daily bread; / and forgive us our trespasses, / as we forgive those who trespass against us; / and lead us not into temptation, / but deliver us from evil.
‚ÄúIf you forgive men their transgressions, your heavenly Father will forgive you. But if you do not forgive men, neither will your Father forgive your transgressions.‚ÄĚ
The biggest or most important part of this I believe is¬†that we have to forgive others. When we forgive others we are also forgiven. We are then giving peace and inturn we are receiving peace. What happens if we don’t forgive? Well, then God will not forgive us. Remember the list of things that I like? The opposite of honesty is someone who tells lies. How does it feel when someone lies to you? That’s right you get mad and you are filled with anger. Your feelings are hurt. You start plotting your revenge. After reading the Lord’s prayer, we know we have to forgive. The hurt and anger should lead us to prayer. A prayer for ourselves to be able to deal with the hurt¬†and anger. A prayer for the person that hurt us. That means we cannot hold grudges. We have to learn to forgive despite all of the anger and hurt that we feel. This is so hard. Front row you are so smart. That’s right our homework today is to think of someone that¬†we need to forgive. It could be a parent, a son or daughter, a sibling, or a friend. It may even be yourself. I find forgiving myself¬†is one of the hardest things to do. Probably the hardest thing¬†of¬†all is admitting that you have done something wrong and need to reconcile with that person. Asking for forgiveness is one of the greatest lessons in humility. Your heart will be very glad you did. There’s no better time than now to forgive. So what are you waiting for?
Sal the Forgiving Gal
Sarah Anderson Alley
Quotes of the day:
We must develop and maintain the capacity to forgive. He who is devoid of the power to forgive is devoid of the power to love. There is some good in the worst of us and some evil in the best of us. When we discover this, we are less prone to hate our enemies.
Martin Luther King Jr.
Mistakes are always forgivable, if one has the courage to admit them.
Bruce Lee
The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong.
Ghandi

What a sinner?

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Luke 5:27-32
I did not come to call the righteous to repentance but sinners.
Students we have made it four days! Today reading this verse I always chuckle. We are so like the Pharisees. We want to point out all the dusty old sinners. Or say things like, “Why are you hanging out with those people?” Sometimes when we get a little bit of religion we get a whole lot¬†of self-righteousness. We become the finger pointers¬†or as some people say holier than thou. We humans are so funny because we want to put everything in categories. We want strict boundaries. We want to make the rules. We want to be God and judge others. I’ll use my daughters new catchphrase, “That ain’t it chief!” That’s right back row. I’m guilty but you guys are pretty rowdy. So we all get it right? We are all sinners that are supposed to follow the rules given to us by God and not use them to hurt or harm others.
Now let’s work on our heart. How could we put into action this lesson? Let’s reflect. If we’re honest we know that we are finger pointers. Here’s our homework. Tomorrow whether you go to church or just go to Walmart I want you to look around. As you look around I want you to pay attention to what you think about those you see. When you start to think something negative, stop yourself. Those people that you see and have negative thoughts about if you make eye contact with them give them a smile or a kind gesture. Control your mind of thinking those negative thoughts. We all have them. Be strong and control them. We have to control our minds¬†in order to help clean out the clutter of our hearts.
Back row I apologize I know that I have given a lot of homework. We have to work on our hearts everyday to make a change. We need to fast continually. We need to do healthy things for ourselves to grow spiritually. Everyday is a good day. Each day we are together we are finding out more and more about how to live a better life and¬†help others¬†to¬†be loved.¬†We are figuring out what we are called to do and what is our purpose. I’m so glad to be on this journey with you.
Sal the Pointing the Finger Gal
Sarah Anderson Alley
Quote of the day:
“Just because you are happy does not¬†mean the day is perfect, but you have looked beyond its imperfections.”
Bob Marley

Fasting

True Fasting
Isaiah 58:5-9
“Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen:
to loose the chains of injustice
and untie the cords of the yoke,
to set the oppressed free
and break every yoke?
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Is it not to share your food with the hungry
and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter‚ÄĒ
when you see the naked, to clothe them,
and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?
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Then your light will break forth like the dawn,
and your healing will quickly appear;
then your righteousness will go before you,
and the glory of the Lord will be your rear guard.
Here we are students at day 3. Yesterday we talked about being happy and we are called to be happy.¬†But what is happy? True happiness is not external. It comes from within. It’s like the Grinch told us that you can’t buy it. Oh and don’t forget the Beatles. Our whole unit of study is about our hearts and today we are going to¬† incorporate fasting.
Why do we fast? We touched on it a little bit with the back row and their cigarette situation. Today as I read these Bible verses from Isaiah were so poignant. We try to give up¬†pleasures.¬†We¬†want to do good by giving them up but we need to realize that fasting should become a habit. A healthy habit that helps us find our way to true happiness. It is written in black and white what true fasting is in the Isaiah verses. We are to be people who want social justice for everyone. We should feed the poor and clothe the needy. We should provide shelter for those who are in need. We are all family in Christ. So fasting is so much more that just abstaining from pleasures. It’s a call to serve. It’s a call to make a habit of serving all year long not just for 40 days. It is a way of life. And when you do all these things: feed the poor,¬†clothe the naked, and give shelter to the hopeless, you better watch out! Your happy meter is going to peg out and explode!
Today as I studied I thought about my high school days. I thought about wanting to fit in and to have the right clothes. I thought about those kids that seem like they never wore the same thing twice. I thought about those kids that got brand new cars at the age of 16. I always thought wow how lucky are they! Those kids got everything they wanted. But you know I don’t think a lot of them were happy. As¬†I¬†have grown into an adult I’ve realized so much. Raising my children I¬†knew they should not have¬†everything that they wanted. Why? I knew from experience that kids that get what they want are¬†not necessarily happy. You see lots of those kids that I went to school with had all the flashy things but being from a modest family of lower income¬†I had something so much more valuable. This was a mother that would listen to me and was interested in me. We had so many talks about life. She was brutally honest about sex and drugs. She asked about my friends and knew them.¬†She cared about my morality. My father loved me unconditionally. He conquered alcoholism and became such¬†a devoted father.¬†Sometimes as a teenager I wondered why can’t I have what all these other kids have? But as I’ve grown up I realized my parents did a great job giving me what I needed. God also provided me with positive adults that shaped me as I grew. I’m so grateful for them. Remember students we want to clear out¬†our hearts and find true happiness. We have to take inventory of our hearts, and we have to be honest.
Back row here’s your homework. You need to fast by giving. So I want you to do a little search in your communities to see where you can give. It may be a bag of clothes that are not worn out or working at the soup kitchen in your town. It could be simply picking up someone’s check at a diner. We need to get out of our heads and we need to focus on others. Back row I can already hear all of your excuses. I hear some of you even say those poor people need to get out get a job! Why should I give to people who are so lazy? You’re asking me to give these good clothes away for free? Ms. Alley how is this ever going to help them or make me happy?
Isaiah 58:9
Then your light will break forth like the dawn,
and your healing will quickly appear;
then your righteousness will go before you,
and the glory of the Lord will be your rear guard.
My summary of this is if you bless others God will bless you.
So what are you waiting for? Get on your homework. And I will see you again tomorrow!
Sal the Fasting Gal
Sarah Anderson Alley
Quote of the day:
The Paradoxical Commandments
People are illogical, unreasonable, and self-centered.
Love them anyway.
If you do good, people will accuse you of selfish ulterior motives.
Do good anyway.
If you are successful, you will win false friends and true enemies.
Succeed anyway.
The good you do today will be forgotten tomorrow.
Do good anyway.
Honesty and frankness make you vulnerable.
Be honest and frank anyway.
The biggest men and women with the biggest ideas can be shot down by the smallest men and women with the smallest minds.
Think big anyway.
People favor underdogs but follow only top dogs.
Fight for a few underdogs anyway.
What you spend years building may be destroyed overnight.
Build anyway.
People really need help but may attack you if you do help them.
Help people anyway.
Give the world the best you have and you’ll get kicked in the teeth.
Give the world the best you have anyway.
Kent M. Keith

40 days with Sal

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Forty Days with Sal: Rend Your Heart

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Rend your hearts, not your garments.
“Even now, says the¬†Lord,¬†/¬†return to me with your whole heart,¬†/¬†with fasting, and weeping, and mourning;¬†/¬†Rend your hearts, not your garments,¬†/¬†and return to the¬†Lord, your God.”
Happy Ash Wednesday! I reflected all day today about our forty blog adventure. Ash Wednesday is a time that we give up or offer things. There are so many ways to make this time special. When I went to receive my ashes, I listened intently to the readings again. The verse that stood out to me was rend your hearts, not your garments. This was such a powerful message and I love that it’s from The book of Joel.
Reflecting on the readings the irony of them compared with my blog yesterday was uncanny. Each of the three readings today used the word hypocrite over and over. The readings made me want to focus on our hearts for these 40 days. I want us to genuinely have a change of heart. As we go through these 40 days hopefully our reflections together will clean out the clutter in our hearts. The important thing is that we do this in a very discreet, quiet way. This is key.
Another crucial factor of our 40 days together is that we create fruit from our sacrifices. For example if the kids¬†in the back row quit buying cigarettes and smoking, that would be wonderful! But is that really enough? That’s right front row. You can’t get off that easy. If the kids give up the cigarettes they should have extra money, right? So do they buy a keg and have a party every weekend from the money they’ve saved? No sorry back row, you should use that money to help others. You could donate it to a food pantry, Matthew 25:40, or your church. Your sacrifice needs to help others. Does this analogy help?
We know our focus. Now we need to think of an action that would help clean out our heart. The action could be physical, emotional, or cerebral. Do we need to physically help others with bodies? Do we need to say we’re sorry or ask for forgiveness? Do we need to forgive ourselves? Do we do we need to focus in prayer and think about how we can be a better person? Your homework today or tonight depending on how you read this is to take a few minutes and do a heart check. Think about what makes your heart hurt. What are things that happened to you that make your heart sad? Ask God to help your heart be glad. Think of how you can do the opposite and put it to action. Here’s an example. Suppose someone at work or school made a rude comment. The comment could have been to you or someone else. When you see either the person that made the comment or the person who was affected by the comment,¬†give that person a compliment just a smile. After you see them, whisper a prayer for them. The prayer can be simply, “Jesus help us to get along and love each other.” This is your first assignment. Go out into the world tomorrow, smile at someone and say something nice, and whisper a prayer for the most difficult person you meet.
Happy Lent!
Sal the Heart Rending Gal
Sarah Anderson Alley
Quote of the day:
The face is the mirror of the mind, and eyes without speaking confess the secrets of the heart.
St. Jerome

Broken

Sal with one of her fav students
In my mind today I am thinking about brokenness. Students, today is a hard lesson for me. I’m struggling to type with my eyes. My arms and hands are now broken. I have been so angry and sad because I can’t type with ease. I am broken. This reflection is not about me. It is about how so many things and people in my life path are broken and I feel so helpless because I want to fix them. That is what healthy Sal would do. I’m ashamed that my prayers lately have been for eternal peace. I know where I will be whole again but yet I’m still here. Writing is my only physical way left to teach. So yes back row, the script is flipped. I’m the one with all the homework and I hate it.
Today’s lesson : brokeness. How many like math? That is what I thought, only the front row. When you get the wrong answer you start over again. Why is this so hard for us? So many things in our human existence are broken : families, schools, health care, the government, our morality, and our churches. You know at the center of all of this chaos lies the simple solution of putting the missing love back in our family units. I don’t speak from a perspective of having come from a perfect family but from a broken one. As I lay here typing through teary eyes, I want my students to have a brighter and better future. I want you to heed this valuable lesson. The broken home that reared Sal had a strong God feariing woman, but that couldn’t save all of us from the evils of addiction. It hurts to watch your sibling kill themselves slowly. It hurts even more when nothing you do can repair their hearts. So many families have at least one broken child. As a teacher I witnessed so many broken children my heart literally ached daily. The horrible reality is the number of these children are growing more rapidly than children with a sound, stable family structure. Broken.

With all problems there are solutions. The biggest problem is that we are all human. In our world today we see no need for God. We are the master of our lives. We can Google anything. We have all become Einsteins. If it feels good do it. Forget about consequences. Hey it’s our life and leave us be. And see how well it is working? That’s sarcasm students. Can we start over? Can we put God in the center of everything we do? If every action, every thought, and every word is done with God in our minds and hearts then brokeness can be healed. Can we admit that we need help? We are not gods, but we desperately need the order, structure, and love of God. It’s not hocus-pocus or stuff and nonsense. From my make shift podium, I ask you to try. Yes back row, it’s probably the most crucial homework assignment I’ve ever given. I’ll continue to pray for all of you until my last breath.

Sarah Anderson Alley

Sal the Broken Gal