Faith

Looking back over our classes together, we have been very busy! We have covered so many virtues. We have tried to put so much goodness out into the world. Remember this is ongoing assignment. I don’t want you to stop after we reach our forty days together.
Yesterday we discussed charity. I hope in some way you were able to be charitable. Don’t forget it doesn’t have to be something huge like donating $1,000 to a local charity. That’s great if you can, but if you are not able to do so don’t beat yourself up. I find that God works in the smallest of ways. Those small little gestures that we give as we walk through our daily lives.
Today we will discuss the last virtue of the seven Christian virtues, faith. I grew up in the 80s and when I hear the word faith I think of that song by George Michael. You know the one: “You Gotta Have Faith.” This song is very far from the virtue of faith that we need to discuss today. Faith is the belief is the graciousness of God’s plan for our lives. The Divine plan for our lives is revealed in Scripture and traditions of the church. Faith is not something we can acquire by studying. Back row you love that part. It is a gift. It is a mysterious gift. If we ask God to strengthen our faith and his works, he freely gives it to us. He gives us Faith to believe in the things that we do not see with our eyes. The virtue of faith has many definitions with the the many denominations of Christian faith. The one I described to you is from Thomas Aquinas. Faith is a very important virtue.
Today as I write this blog, I remember that today is the day Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated. I think it is befitting to discuss faith on this day. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. had tremendous faith. I remember teaching this objective in my history class. Listening to the speech the night before his death together we realized he had faith that the cause for good would continue. He foretold of his impending death. He reassured the Civil Rights crowd he was not scared. He knew better things would come whether he was here in body or spirit. Twelve years before April 4th 1968 Dr. King had received yet another death threat. As he sat in the middle of the night with a cup of coffee he recalled hearing a voice. That voice promised that it would be with him to the end of time. It encouraged him to fight for what was right and just. This steeled his resolve to continue the dangerous fight for rights. You see students, he had faith in God’s plans.
Every once in awhile, I get glimpse of what Sal the ALS Gal looks like in this scoot. For example, heading into the church last night for youth group I saw myself reflected in the glass doors.  I saw a broken body rolling into church cumbered by apparatuses to help me continue to go forward. I said oh my goodness. My daughter asked what are you talking about? I just replied boy I am such a mess. Rolling down the hall, I saw one of our young parishioners with her baby and four year old. The four year olds face lit up and grabbed my arm and hugged me the best way she could. We began talking about little topics that children love. The image that I saw moments before vanished. For a second, I lost my faith that a broken body could still do the work God has provided for me. I was reminded of oh ye of little faith. You see students if you ask God for the faith to complete the plan of your life, He will. Why are we studying how to be lights for God? Why are we learning virtues? We are on this journey to make the best decisions possible. We want to make the world a better place. We can only do that by walking in faith in our daily lives. This Faith walk speaks louder than any blog or speech. Today, walk with faith that God is with you. Your day maybe riddled with problems, but have faith. Turn to him and whisper a prayer:
God, I want to have faith. I want you to help me make good choices. I give my life to you. Help me to grow in faith and love for what is good and just.
Amen
Sal the Faithful Gal
Sarah Anderson Alley
Quote of the day:
“Well, I don’t know what will happen now. We’ve got some difficult days ahead. But it doesn’t matter with me now. Because I’ve been to the mountaintop. . . . And I’ve seen the promised land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight that we, as a people, will get to the promised land.”
—Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., at a rally the night before his death

Charity

Oh my students! Ms. Alley has been suffering from a fever these last few days. Spring fever! I have spent the last two days outside until dark. Monday was chilly but God had provided me with help to visit my favorite plant nursery and then gave me two days of cleaning and planting in my yard. If you know me very well, you understand what a gift of Charity from God this is to me.
To begin our adventure, my Aunt and Uncle Poe drove me to Yorkville, TN to my favorite Mom and Pop plant nursery Z’s Greenhouse. I’ve been buying the most unique and beautiful flowers there for a decade. I didn’t physically make it last year but a sweet garden fairy friend delivered and planted my Z’s treasures. Z’s ower, Debbie, started this little side business when hard times hit her home. One of my best friends mentioned would I consider buying plants from Z’s to help them out. I did and have been every year for 10 years. Debbie and Jimmy are some of the most charitable souls I know. I never left there without an extra plant or item just because they love me. Charity is so beautiful and such an important virtue. If you live in our little corner of West Tennessee, please consider visiting Z’s and buying a plant or two. She has had to scale back this season because of her health and her sweet husband is fighting cancer. Every day is a gift from God. You just can’t out give God, but it never hurts to try.
Gardening has always been a love of mine. Not being able to get down and dirty gardening has been so hard for me. My 73 year old newlywed Aunt Linda knows that. She now lives four hours away. She visits maybe once a month but knew she would not be coming back to see me for three months. She has spent enough seasons with me to know that rolling in my yard and praying on my deck amid flowers fills my soul and makes me so happy. She and her 85 year old husband decided this trip they were going to set me up with flowers to help me stay mentally healthy until she could come back in July. What charitable hearts these two love birds have. 🙂
Students have you guessed today’s virtue? Come on back row! That’s right! Charity. Christian charity is not just giving goods; it’s giving of yourself. It’s giving from your heart. It’s part of the first commandment: Love your God with all of your heart, mind, and soul. The second commandment is to love your neighbor as you love yourself. When you love others like this you are spreading God’s love. Where in your life can you show charity? It could be in small ways. Those small acts melt the hardest of hearts. It makes me laugh to remember as a child I would pick wildflowers or weeds and take them to a neighbor who was wheelchair bound. That’s right front row, irony and foreshadowing! I would walk up to her front door before I started an adventure with a hand full of weedy flowers. I would knock and she would roll to the door. She took the flowers every time with such amazement and gratitude. She would then put them in a vase, put them on top of her tv in the picture window so I could see them, and enjoy them as if I had given her a bouquet of expensive, exotic flowers. That’s charity. I had no clue God was using me but he definitely used Mrs. Opal to encourage my heart.  Students it happens that way. God uses us for the good if we let Him. Try to find some small way this Lent to serve others. Embrace the big charitable heart God gave you and use it.
Sal the Charitable Gal
Sarah Anderson Alley
Z’s Greenhouse and Nursery
TN-188, Yorkville, TN
Search Z’s Greenhouse on Facebook
Quotes of the day:
We are constituted so that simple acts of kindness, such as giving to charity or expressing gratitude, have a positive effect on our long-term moods. The key to the happy life, it seems, is the good life: a life with sustained relationships, challenging work, and connections to community.
Paul Bloom
Men lose all the material things they leave behind them in this world, but they carry with them the reward of their charity and the alms they give. For these, they will receive from the Lord the reward and recompense they deserve.
Saint Francis of Assisi
Charity is a supreme virtue, and the great channel through which the mercy of God is passed onto mankind.
Conrad Hilton
True charity is the desire to be useful to others with no thought of recompense.
Emmanuel Swedenborg
 The world calls for, and expects from us, simplicity of life, the spirit of prayer, charity towards all, especially towards the lowly and the poor, obedience and humility, detachment, and self-sacrifice. Without this mark of holiness, our word will have difficulty in touching the heart of modern man.
Pope Paul VI

 

Hope

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A reading from the Book of the Prophet Jeremiah 7:23-28
This is the nation that will not listen to the voice of the Lord God.

Life happened again yesterday. I had too many obligations and not enough time. I hope you are staying strong and practicing your virtues. Today we are going to talk about the virtue of Hope. Hope can mean a lot of things in our culture. We hope we get into the college that we want when we graduate high school. We hope that we can get a good job to provide for our family. We hope that our students in class will behave and try to learn the objectives. As a Christian virtue hope takes on a different dimension. As a Christian hope it’s not based on our human desires. Hope is based on what God has promised us as Christians. We hope in the strength of our God and savior to fulfill his promise that he wants us to be happy, to have a good life, and to help us to fulfill our purpose in creating a better world for Him.

My first reading today was from Jeremiah. It was rather shocking. It said this is the nation that will not listen to the voice of the Lord God. Think about that. We hope in the promises of God but are we doing our part? Are we listening to the voice of God through scriptures and prayer and other people that God places in our lives? What if we don’t hold up our end of the bargain? In order to cash in our rewards, we have to live morally, sound lives. This is very important. That’s why students I am taking so much time on virtues. In order for you to grow spiritually we have to run a good race.  You have to have a sound moral core. All of these virtues that we are discussing and learning are from God. Haven’t you always heard all things good come from God? I understand the argument of people not understanding creation and a creator, but all of the studying I have done I have come to the conclusion that this one makes the most sense. God is a god of love. All things from God should produce love. Think about the opposite of our virtues that we are building. We want to be strong . We want to be courageous, but the opposites of those are to be cowardly and weak in our faith. Think about the opposite of charity. That would to be very miserly and we all know the story of Ebenezer Scrooge. How did that work out?

Today I want you to work on your virtue of Hope. I want you too have faith and hope for the best. Hope for the plans that God has for you. If you’re reading this blog, you have been led here for a reason. There are three big aspects to being a human: our relationships with others, our relationship with ourselves chosing good and acting upon it, and our relationship with God. Right now we are focusing on our relationship with ourselves and trying to create a better person, a better heart, and a better understanding of why we are even here on Earth. I hope you understand that we are not here to horde as many resources as possible, to be lauded by our accomplishments, or be accepted into the “in” crowd. We are here to live a life of virtues. We are here to love each other and take care of one another on this earthly journey. Our treasures are not here. I really hope that our time together will open your ears to hear. Not like the ones in the Bible verse today from Jeremiah. It’s never too late to fight the vices of your life. We are called to listen and fight now to build up a Kingdom of God. Today I want you to read The Lord’s prayer. I want you to really think about each line of this perfect prayer. You all are growing! I feel it. Hope in this prayer, and most of all try to live this prayer today as you go through your day.

Sal the Thy Kingdom Come Gal
Sarah Anderson Alley

Quotes of the day:
The great gift of Easter is hope – Christian hope which makes us have that confidence in God, in his ultimate triumph, and in his goodness and love, which nothing can shake.
Basil Hume

I see so many people. They just seem to be hopeless. Being a Christian and being a pastor, the ultimate hope is in Jesus.
Richie Fury


The Christian experiences and lives a paradox. He possesses joy in sorrow, fulfillment in exile, light in darkness, peace in turmoil, consolation in dryness, contentment in pain and hope in desolation.
Mother Angelica

I hope the day that all the Christians are one. This is my dream.
Pope Theodoros II

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.

Fortitude

Good day students! I hope the world is treating you with Justice. I also hope that you are treating others with Justice. Today we are going to talk about fortitude. Fortitude is a very wonderful virtue. The only downside to fortitude is that you have to go through trials in your life in order for your fortitude to shine.
This morning I got a text from our youngest daughter. She is at the end of her high school career and is taking calculus. Today they did some example problems for the AP exam. She said, “Thank God that God will still love me even though I am going to fail this calculus AP exam.” What does she need to do students? That’s right front row, she needs to summon her fortitude or strength. It’s really hard to do that when you are at the end of something like your high school career. I know inside of her mind she is thinking what the heck? Does this test really matter that much? I also know my daughter. I know she will muster the strength to do her best. And as long as she does that, she will have peace because she knows God will love her anyway. That’s what fortitude is, try your hardest in the face of adversity to take the high road and do your best.
In my little small corner of the world, there have been a lot of life events: births, deaths, cancer, and dealing with the ebb and flow of the each day. Life is tough. Especially when you have to say goodbye to your soulmate and trust that there is another birth with their leaving this Earth. Trust that the love and memories that you have created will sustain you until you take that journey. Seeing the DNA of your family carry on. Wow! Life is a miracle. Watching beloved friends fight cancer and other diseases takes fortitude. Waking up and facing a new day takes fortitude. How can we help when so much is trying to snatch or our joy? Well students, you call on your other virtues to help you build fortitude in others. Help them to be strong and courageous. Pray for them. Take them meals. Mail a funny card or a heartfelt note. Visit them. Share a story about them to their loved ones.
Students, we need to be fortitudious. Be strong for your sisters and brothers on this planet. We are in this together. Believe me when I say there is strength in numbers. And that’s right back row, you do have homework. Here it is. I want you to flex your fortitude muscles. Use all of your lessons we have learned this far andd show your strength. Show the strength of faith that you have as a Christian. Let someone lean on you today. Hold them up with your spiritual strength. It doesn’t matter if you do a good deed or a simple prayer. Just do it.
Sal the Fortitudious Gal
Sarah Anderson Alley
Quotes of the day:
Courage is the most important of all the
virtues because without courage, you
can’t practice any other virtue
consistently.
Maya Angelou
       No pain that we suffer, no trial that we experience is wasted. It ministers to our education, to the development of such qualities as patience, faith, fortitude and humility. All that we suffer and all that we endure, especially when we endure it patiently, builds up our characters, purifies our hearts, expands our souls, and makes us more tender and charitable, more worthy to be called the children of God . . . and it is through sorrow and suffering, toil and tribulation, that we gain the education that we come here to acquire and which will make us more like our Father and Mother in heaven.
Orson F. Whitney
       True Christian fortitude consists in strength of mind, through grace, exerted in two things; in ruling and suppressing the evil and unruly passions and affections of the mind; and in steadfastly and freely exerting and following good affections and dispositions, without being hindered by sinful fear or the opposition of enemies… Though Christian fortitude appears in withstanding and counteracting the enemies that are without us; yet it much more appears in resisting and suppressing the enemies that are within us; because they are our worst and strongest enemies and have greatest advantage against us. The strength of the good soldier of Jesus Christ appears in nothing more than in steadfastly maintaining the holy calm, meekness, sweetness, and benevolence of his mind, amidst all the storms, injuries, strange behaviour, and surprising acts and events of this evil and unreasonable world.
Jonathan Edwards

Justice

Students do you remember that rhyme: “1,2 skip a few?” I promise that it’s not what’s happening with our 40 days together. It makes me think of a John Lennon quote, “Life is what happens when you are busy making other plans.” This is exactly what happened to me. Life has been happening. We have been busy researching and visiting places that could be the next chapter for our youngest daughter. But now I am back ready to double up on our journey through our 40 days.
The last day we had class we talked about temperance. Temperance is very important as we live our lives. We need to show restraint with those things that tempt us and threaten to become idols in our lives. I hope you practiced using temperance this past weekend.
We are working on virtues. We are trying to right our ship and have smooth sailing toward our goal. These forty days we are working toward many goals: creating a pure heart, creating moments of kindness toward others, clearing out the clutter of our hearts, making our little corner of the world better, and practicing virtues. Today we will add another virtue. This virtue is called Justice.
When you hear the word justice, you think of fairness, court cases, and being slighted in some way or another. The virtue Justice is something that we as humans need. It is a check on ourselves. How do we use Justice in our lives? Justice is a balance between being selfish and selfless. There is a happy balance in the middle. It is very hard to walk this thin line in our daily lives.
Charity and Justice can be used synonymously. Are you charitable to others when everything is going their way? There are days when we wonder why did I not get what I wanted and the other person did. I told you that I had been busy. One of the things that happened this past week was our daughter did not get into a college that she picked as her top choice. Looking at her transcript and her community involvement it made no sense that she did not get into this college. So we all wanted to scream, “This is not fair!” Eating humble pie is very hard. It is one of the hardest things to do when things do not go your way. Even harder is being happy for those who have made it to a goal that you yearned for and have failed.
What should we do? How can we practice Charity or Justice when these things slap us in the face? First we should be firm with ourselves. We should not fall in the face of adversity but straighten our backbones and persevere. I believe everything happens for the good of all even if we do not get everything we want. This helps us practice humility and patience. We need to remain truthful and upright and be cautious not to slander others who have reached a goal that we so desperately wanted. We need to pray with gratitude the ability to run this race of life. Until you draw your last breath, the race is on. Embrace these times of hardship. These are the times you learn exponentially. They help you become a stronger, more faithful, and a virtuous person.
Think about a time when things didn’t go the way you wished. It may have been a job promotion or position on a sports team that you didn’t get. Did you handle it with Justice and Charity? I know many times in my life I did not. Thanks be to God I am still learning how to be a virtuous person. I hope the next time you and I are faced with a tough situation, we choose to be charitable and act out of Justice. Dry your eyes and blow those noses. Today is a new day and we have living to do!
Sal the Stiff Upper Lip Gal
Sarah Anderson Alley
Quotes of the day:
Human progress is neither automatic nor inevitable… Every step toward the goal of justice requires sacrifice, suffering, and struggle; the tireless exertions and passionate concern of dedicated individuals.
MLK Jr
Where justice is denied, where poverty is enforced, where ignorance prevails, and where any one class is made to feel that society is an organized conspiracy to oppress, rob and degrade them, neither persons nor property will be safe.
Fredrick Douglass
Throughout history, it has been the inaction of those who could have acted; the indifference of those who should have known better; the silence of the voice of justice when it mattered most; that has made it possible for evil to triump.
Haile Selassie

Prudence

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Welcome students to day fourteen! Our last assignment was to have mercy on people who are hard to deal with. I hope you had some success. If you didn’t, you need to keep trying. In the next lessons we are going to get a tune up on our hearts. In order for us to put good out into the world, we have to have strong hearts.
What makes a strong heart? Or what makes a heart strong? Our hearts drive our actions. We want to have good actions. I know we have cleaned out a lot of clutter in just 14 days but we still have work to do. Are you a virtuous person? I know the back row was asking what is virtuous? Being virtuous, is what being a Christian is all about. It is what God wants us to be. We have to be morally sound. We have to practice our morals and put them into action that is what being virtuous is.
First virtue we are going to work on is Prudence. Back row I know you are scratching your heads because Prudence is an odd word. Prudence is the cornerstone to all the other virtues. If you do not have Prudence it will be hard to practice and put in place the other virtues. Do you have the ability to choose the correct course of action? Everyday we are given choices. Do we choose the best course of action? Do we show patience when we’re dealing with those spiteful people? What about showing wisdom and not being ensnared into an argument? Do we choose the courage to walk away from a bad situation? You see Prudence is very important. It is being able to discern the best course of action.
How do we master this virtue? Just like everything else it takes practice. It takes studying. The best way for me to find answers is through scriptures. Each day read something from the Bible. If you do a daily devotion, that is based on a Bible verse. Look at Philippians 4: 8&9
8 Finally, beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. 9 Keep on doing the things that you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, and the God of peace will be with you.
These verses tell us to fill our minds with things that are good and pure. Have you ever heard of “garbage in garbage out?” If you fill your minds with bad things then your mind will think bad things. It’s a slippery slope. Next you will be acting in bad ways. Back row you know the things I’m talking about: violent video games and pornography. These are two that we need to guard our minds against. It’s very hard to do so in a culture that has become so lax. Remember we need to make a change and this is the way to do it. We need to live moral lives. Today’s homework is to take inventory of your minds. Is there something you should cut out? Are there things you need to protect your children from seeing? What “garbage” is getting through the filter to your mind? What media is unhealthy? For the last 26 days of our adventure, try to fill your mind and senses with positive images, music, and media. Let’s see if you gain Prudence.
Sal the Prudent Gal
Sarah Anderson Alley
Quotes of the day:
Affairs are easier of entrance than of exit; and it is but common prudence to see our way out before we venture in.
Aesop
Prudence does not mean failing to accept responsibilities and postponing decisions; it means being committed to making joint decisions after pondering responsibly the road to be taken.
Pope Benedict XVI
You must rouse into people’s consciousness their own prudence and strength, if you want to raise their character.
Luc de Clapiers

Have Mercy!

 

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Be merciful, just as your father is merciful. Luke: 36

Welcome to day 13 students! Today I was reminded to be merciful. I know that the 40 days of Lent that we are sharing we want to pour out Mercy for others. Do you remember a time when you were showed Mercy? As a student you may have been given more time to complete an assignment. as a teenager your parents may have gone easier on you when they found out you were up to no good. As an adult you may have messed something up at work and the boss gave you another chance. You may have hurt a friend’s feelings by making a rude comment. Mercy feels really good when you are all the other end of it. Sometimes we feel like we are unforgivable. People will forgive us but we will not forgive ourselves.

Let’s take this lesson a little deeper. Have you ever dealt with a person that is a taker? They are just very spiteful and make you feel horrible. How do you show Mercy to a person who is so unkind and inconsiderate? In most cases these people are very selfish and self-centered. They create unhealthy situations in order to get what they want. How do you show Mercy to a person that is so self-absorbed? Students, it is very hard. This person could be a relative, boyfriend or girlfriend, husband or wife, long time friend, or a fellow employee at work. It’s so hard when you have to deal with people that are spiteful. If they are in your life, face it, you have to deal with them.

Let’s think about ways that are positive or Christian ways to deal with spiteful people. First, recognize the situation and how it makes you feel. If they have a negative impact on you something needs to change. Spiteful people can steal your joy, but they are also still part of our Christian family.

When you are confronted by a spiteful person, the first thing to do is not to react. That plays right into their hands. They use emotions to manipulate you. Most times you will give in just to have peace. When you react to them with arguing you automatically lose. I know it is really hard to show Mercy to these types of people but instead of reacting close your eyes and say a prayer for patience.

Next, try to talk to the calmly. Express how you feel. Use I statements. I feel very sad when this happens or I am uncomfortable with this situation. If you use you statements they will use them to play the victim. Stand your ground and be calm setting clear boundaries. If we are going to arguing I am leaving or hanging up the phone. If it is texting, ignore them. Hit delete and don’t even read it. Don’t engage the negative behavior. Then pray about it and for them.

Last but not least, these personality types are usually in need of a good friend. They are insecure. Stand your ground, be positive, and don’t react. You can be the person that helps them make a change. If they can’t be civil then try to limit your contact with them. Remember when you do see them try to always be kind. You can’t control anyone but yourself. Everyone is deserving of God’s mercy. Today think of a difficult person you deal with and say a prayer for him/her. Be merciful.

Sal the Merciful Gal
Sarah Anderson Alley

Quote of the day:
Life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you react to it.
Charles R. Swindoll