Angels and Light

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Angels and Light
In my mind today, I’m thinking of angels and light. Back row, it may get deep today as I think about these two: angels and light. Keep the comments from the peanut gallery to a minimum please. Mention of Angels and light are repeated throughout in the Bible. Today, I read about Jacob and his fleeing after stealing his brother Esau’s birthright. He was gone for 20 years. He fell into fitful dreams of angels of light ascending and descending into the heavens. He was wrestling with the angel because he knew he had to face his personal demons. Did he literally wrestle? I think it was an internal struggle between light and dark. What about you? Do you have those guttural moments when you are presented with choices of good versus evil? I do. It’s not fun and yes there are sleepless nights and bouts of fitful dreams. Know the story of Jacob? If no, read it this weekend and see what you think. Stop grumbling back row! Some weekends you get homework.

Think about your own life. Do you believe there are angels? What about light? Do you believe ALL matter has light? Pieces of divine hidden in all of creation? More homework so stop the mumbling. This weekend look at the sunset or sunrise. Look for angels in the light. And no back row, I’m not taking hallucinogens or hitting the peace pipe. Search for the light in everything around you, not just people. It’s there. I find it daily on my rolls outside with my dogs. It’s in the trees and the breeze that rustles the leaves. It’s in my pets. It’s in the flowers in my yard and even the grass. Oh, and it’s especially illuminated in the clouds. Here’s your to do list: read the story of Jacob, watch a sunrise or sunset, and look for the angels of light around you.

Sarah Anderson Alley

Quotes of the Day:
“It was pride that changed angels into devils; it is humility that makes men as angels.”
Saint Augustine

“Fools rush in where angels fear to tread.”
Alexander Pope

“When you rise in the morning, give thanks for the light, for your life, for your strength. Give thanks for your food and for the joy of living. If you see no reason to give thanks, the fault lies in yourself.”
Tecumseh

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”
Martin Luther King, Jr.

“It is during our darkest moments that we must focus to see the light.”
Aristotle

 

Time Management

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Time Management

In my mind today students, I’m thinking about time management. Ol’ Ms. Alley is burning the candle at both ends again. [insert stress emoji here] This week has been a whirl of activity and as I look into the future I see a tornado forming. I have reading assignments(4 chapters), 8 discussion questions to answer, write and reflect in my writing course, a book club book to read, prepare for my Sunday School class, and write to you my students. Students an F5 tornado is headed straight into my mind and I’ve got to start battening down the hatches. Oh, and I apologize for yesterday because I took a sick day. I was at the ALS Clinic all day. No hatches were battened!

Go ahead back row; start the spit-wad war while I organize my planner and desk. Time management is a wonderful gift. We each get 24 hours, 1,440 minutes, or 86,400 seconds each day. So how does Ms. Alley hold it all together? Even though today was a rest day, I started it with reading my small devotions. They literally lit my path through this day. They told me to rest. My body is tired. I listened. All of my upcoming activities will fall into place. I have no doubts or fears. My assignments will get completed. My books will be read. My lessons will get planned. My blog will get written. The back row is grumbling, “Good luck. I don’t see it happening.” Oh ye of little faith. My timekeeper is the master of all time. He carries the lamp to light my path. He is the ultimate time manager and totally free. Need time management?
Sarah Anderson Alley
Quotes of the Day:
“So during those first moments of the day, which are yours and yours alone, you can circumvent these boundaries and concentrate fully on spiritual matters. And this gives you the opportunity to plan the time management of the entire day.”
Menachem Mendel Schneerson

“If you love life, don’t waste time, for time is what life is made up of.”
Bruce Lee

“Change will not come if we wait for some other person or some other time. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for. We are the change that we seek.”
Barack Obama

Touch

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Touch

In my mind today I’m thinking about human touch. Minds out of the gutters back row! I’ve always been a person who craves big hugs, a pat on the back, and warmness of hand holding. As a teacher, you are warned about being too touchy-feely with your students. Some students cringe if you touch them. Some want daily morning hugs. You have to know your students preferences to recognition and rewards. And I did. I didn’t run around grabbing students, but there were moments when touch was appropriate and desperately needed. Discernment is needed.

At church this past Sunday during communion, I was first to receive because I’m on the front pew in a little wheelchair niche. Many times my fellow parishioners will touch my shoulder, hair, arm, or head as they pass by. Remember, I love touch and I’m grateful for those love pats. This Sunday, someone grabbed my arm and lingered. I looked up and it was a former student. This student was one of those that I taught in 5th grade and also 8th grade. As our eyes met and he smiled, I was catapulted back to my physically strong days. I remembered his hunger for more in math and how I gave him harder objectives than the others. I thought of how I had literally watched him blossom before my eyes. Yes back row, I began to cry as the memories flooded my mind. Not tears of bitterness or regret but tears of joy. God had given me this beautiful mission. Even though my student is an adult and now a doctor, his touch and eyes gave me that touch I desperately needed to say, “Thank you Ms. Alley. Love and peace be with you. I remember.” His visits home are sporadic now. He’s busy being an adult. Moments such as this are affirmations to living my purpose. Today, hug a teacher or tell them thank you. I mean it back row!
Sarah Anderson Alley
Quote of the Day:
“Let us remember: One book, one pen, one child, and one teacher can change the world.”
Malala Yousafzai

Prayer

Prayer

In my mind today I’m thinking about a multitude of concepts: loneliness, pettiness, works of mercy, painting, writing, teaching, and prayer. I need to be a good student and narrow down my topic less I just make a mess of this reflection. So, here it goes. Drum roll please back row students. Our learning objective today is going to be prayer. Oh, back row how you try my patience but thankfully I have a few nerve cells left. Prayer is not a chance to catch a few z’s before the big Friday night tomfoolery. Let’s begin.

Prayer is a form of connecting with the unknown in a semiconscious manner. Is it just a Christian thing? That’s correct front row; most major and minor religions pray. They pray to a God and some to gods.

Prayer comes in many forms: formal, informal, solitude, groups, long, and short. Do you pray? Or better yet do you call out for help on some of your most trying days? Yes, back row like when school began.

Now, let’s assume we all pray or mimic prayer in our lives. When do you pray? What time of day? Is it sporadic or routine? Is it usually in times of trouble or great need? Do you awake with a prayer of thanks on your lips? I do. I’m thankful for every waking I’m granted. That means there is work still here for me to do.

Here’s a tough one. Do you feel your prayers are answered? Did your older sibling reach for that sobriety for which you are praying desperately? Did the mother who lost her child find the peace you prayed for? Were you healed physically? You see when bad things happen to good people and their prayers seem unanswered, herein lies a problem. We lose our faith and hope.

Life is messy. Being human is even messier. Of course all of this is spurned from reading about the Israelites in the desert. We, like the Israelites, have painful life situations. The key to staying in the game of life is trust. You have to examine the ways God has been in your life. The blessings given and the hope of those yet to come. Believe me when I say if you are breathing then your story has not ended. The plan has not been fulfilled. Pray.

The back row students are my toughest critics. They blurt out things like, “ALS has wrecked your body, made you retire, and you wear a diaper. Ms. Alley you are crazy to pray and give thanks. I would be the opposite of thankful.” Yes, all you said is true, but I’m thankful for this messy, little life. Listen carefully students. My joy is from within me. It was put there at my conception. This part will be called home when my diaper wearing body ceases to breathe. I don’t know all the plans, but I know I’m never alone in my plight. Neither are you. Today examine your lives. Count your blessings. Continue to plead for peace, healing, or change. It’s not a question of “if;” it’s a question of “when” your prayers will be answered.
Sarah Anderson Alley
Quotes of the Day:
“Our prayers may be awkward. Our attempts may be feeble. But since the power of prayer is in the one who hears it and not in the one who says it, our prayers do make a difference.” – Max Lucado
“I know that the Lord is always on the side of the right; but it is my constant anxiety and prayer that I and this nation may be on the Lord’s side.” – Abraham Lincoln
And last but not least, students this is why Ms. Alley is still rolling and uber busy.
“God is looking for people to use, and if you can get usable, he will wear you out. The most dangerous prayer you can pray is this: ‘Use me.'” – Rick Warren
And He is wearing this diaper wearing girl out!

Poverty

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Poverty
In my mind today I'm thinking about poverty. I went to a brief meeting of the local Matthew 25:40 last night. So many of us have no clue of or about poverty. There are probably hundreds of impoverished people in our small town population of around 16,000 people. Some are mentally handicapped, some are drug addicts or alcoholics, and some are just truly down on their luck.

As a former teacher what bothers me most about poverty is the fact that children are trapped in this wheel of poverty. They know nothing but the life of living moment to moment. The lives of other more fortunate children is totally foreign to them, and uncomfortable. Routines, rules, and hygienic lifestyles totally turn them off. Education is just another tool of the privileged to embarrass, oppress, and degrade them making sure they understand their "places." I have to give props or positive affirmations to our little town for trying to be a village for all especially the poor. We have several nonprofit outreaches.

At the meeting, the council is trying desperately to become a better steward with its resources. Trying to make appropriate times and allocate places to serve the poor is a daunting, two-edged sword. I sat there thinking the poor have no routines, schedules, or time management skills. Every aspect of being poor is on the cusp of survival. It's the now. There are no plans for the future much less tomorrow's meals. We try to fit them into our world of routines, 401k's, and commitments.

The poor are modern day hunters and gathers. They are in a constant state of flux. When I was a teacher in public schools, I can't tell you how many times I wanted to either stay at school keeping my students there and safe because I knew what waited at home for them. The students would want me to give extra assignments because they needed the distraction from their home lives. I often got in trouble with administration because students did not want to leave my room in the afternoons. Through the years I contemplated adopting students after mine were grown but my teaching career ended prematurely because of my health. So now I try to support my would have been students through other venues.

Hopefully, small and large communities can help solve the cycle of generational poverty. So where do you start? Do you rip out from under the current poor the resources they have and decide who among them is worthy, redeemable, or can rehabilitate? Do you narrow those hand outs hoping it will spurn them to get a job, be responsible, and most importantly nurture their children? Or will they exploit and squander said resources for their addictions whether they be drugs or materialistic or egocentric? Is the poverty snowball too huge to stop? Where is the enabling and helping line drawn? These are real life conundrums.

After sleeping on it, I have come back to the children. It always does with me. We have safe houses for men and women but today we need them for the children. The end of poverty begins with nurturing and educating the mother before the child is born. Providing and educating the mother and child from infancy until school. This may be in forms of modern day orphanages that let the addicted or inept parents leave their children to a safe place so they can become givers not takers. The first three years are vital. They may be there until adulthood but their lives could possibly be more fruitful than their parents. I know you're thinking this is too much. Why are they having these babies for someone else to raise? They have zero resources. Your anger is justified from your educated perspective but grumbling is not classified as an action. That's textbook poverty. No planning just surviving the moments. Some of those moments create passion and children. Listen to "In the Ghetto" by Elvis.

What did I learn today? Remember I'm taking some courses this summer. See, feel, and act are key components of compassion. Today see the poor. Search your heart and try to understand from their perspective. And if you can, act. Here's your assignment today. Help stock the local food pantry. Volunteer to read at a public school. Look into the eyes of the poor and acknowledge them as sisters and brethren.
Sarah Anderson Alley

Dedicated to our villages

This was the quote that started my quest this morning. It's from Give Us This Day.
["In a world of different and even conflicting values, it is not easy to hold to principles without becoming self-righteous. But to act as judge and jury is to exceed our authority and may alienate those we should love. If the final judgment is for the angels and for God’s loving mercy, that should be enough to quiet the tempest within us. "Do you understand?" asks Jesus of each of us. It’s a question we will always struggle with."]

 

Spreading Hope

In my mind this week, I have been powering up for another burst of adventures. After the hectic weekend and my mystery machine, my van, trying to die on me, I've been resting. The kind of resting you just do absolutely nothing except basically breathe. That was pretty much my week and so far today. I really needed it. Besides breathing, I went to the Alley Alliance Meeting for ALS Tuesday, read, and researched. Those are easy to do on an iPhone. My iPad is getting too cumbersome. But as I've said, "C'est la vie." I'm not giving up or in just yet. Something strong began stirring in my chest besides phlegm yesterday. I believe it was Hope. 

Hope knows just when to show up. As I start to envision another fall race to help fund the fight to live not die with ALS, Hope changes my perspective. There are jobs to be done and so many loved ones to help catapult the effort. I looked around at the meeting and realized that our Hope was not diminishing but increasing. My breathing has been flaky lately but I'm not going down without a fight. There is too much Hope that needs to be unleashed into this community, country, and world. So I'm taking a cue from Emile Coue. (Punny don't you think?) l'm chanting in my mind, "Every day in every way I'm getting better and better." This version of Ms. Alley, Sal, Sarah, or Salley is really so much better each day. Students I know you're thinking she's becoming psychosomatically crazy. Really, I'm more sound mentally than ever. 

I am still a work in progress, but I have become better on so many other levels. I'm a more thoughtful being. I am immersed with empathy and love for my fellow man and woman. I've learned to be happy putting everyone before me. Believe it or not it feels great. I can sit and really feel peace in my still body. I'm ever so much more observant. I'm free from commercialism of name brands because shoes are a thing of the past and mumu dresses complete my wardrobe. Students, the clothes really don't define us. I understand the importance of holding hands and falling asleep beside the person God made to complete and accompany me in my life. I am fearfully and wonderfully made. You are too. 

Recently, I talked with a dear confidant and my mind's eye began to heal. I had an epiphany of sorts. I realized I have to recharge so I can finish strong. Just like when I used to run. I had to pace myself. When I ran, so many parts of my body began to hurt but I had to push through the pain. I was going to finish regardless if my leg muscles tied in knots or my right arm was like jelly. Ask some of my former coaches, quickness was never my specialty, right Coach Cole? I learned to use my mind to overcome so many physical and mental obstacles. Endurance became my modus operandi. I think this came from Coach Jones and all of our PMA (Positive Mental Attitude) sessions. My psyche has realized that my life is and has literally been a race. I think the last leg of the recent race to MTSU, bookclub, doctor's appointment, and adventures zapped me physically, and I have to be smarter about expending myself. Hey, remember I have Hope to spread. 

The mystery machine is fixed thanks to a sweet, humble man named Idos. Just an example of yet another random blessing in this life race of mine. My current leg of the race is about to begin and I will start to put seeds of Hope down as I roll through it. Looking ahead at the my calendar for the week, I'm grateful for adventures and a race to run. I'll keep giving thanks for the Spirit that guides me as I become a better person each day. I'll keep chanting my mantra, too. Join me as we become better and better each day. 

Sarah Anderson Alley

Quote of the Day:
"Every day in every way, I'm getting better and better."
Emile Coue
"I have ALS but it doesn't have me, Sal the Show-tunes Gal!"
Me