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

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

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

The Last shall be First

Happy Holy Thursday students! Today as I finished my readings, I imagined Jesus washing my feet. Why did he do this? Why did he, the son of God, wash the feet of his disciples? Peter resisted. Jesus told him unless he was allowed to wash his feet then he could not truly follow Jesus. I love the way we learn lessons from Jesus. He was the champion of Socratic thought and questioning. He continually flips the script. Think of God. God is at the top of all. He is the CEO of life. What are we? Well, we all have different stations and life. We are teachers, sanitation workers, doctors, nurses, grocery store clerks, stay-at-home moms, drug addicts, alcoholics, railroad conductors, relatives caring for other relatives who are sick, managers of small businesses, homeless people, mentally ill people, young people, elderly people, disabled people, and the list could go on forever. We all have a station. Which of the station’s do you think should be the feet washers? Aha! That’s right back row, you could never imagine a doctor or lawyer washing a homeless person’s feet. That’s exactly what we are supposed to do. Front row when you get your PhD you should not be haughty. You should still wash your brothers and sisters feet who are less fortunate than you. Not literally unless the chance arises, but you are called to put others first regardless of their station. This is exactly today’s lesson. We are called to love each other and serving each other to the end of our earthly lives.
Jesus understood that for something bigger to be born something had to die. Look at biblical history. Isaac was going to die at Abraham’s hand. Abraham understood his covenant with God had to be stronger than that with his own son. At Passover, remember all of the unblemished, male lambs and goats that were sacrificed for The Exodus out of Egypt? Something had to die to protect the Israelites. Have you ever had a chance to hold a baby lamb? It makes my stomach hurt to think of them being sacrificed. Today’s Gospel ask for us to die. Back-row do not get upset; I am not asking you to die literally. We are to die to ourselves. That means our egos are to die. We are to love each other as we love ourselves. This is so hard in a world that is so egocentric, so selfish. It takes constant practice. If we practice those virtues every single day eventually we will defeat our ego. We will begin to see Christ in others regardless of the station they have been given in this life. We can get there. I know we can. Your homework today is to think of your station in life. Make a plan to wash someone’s feet. If you see a homeless person, offer them your respect by looking them in the eyes and simply greet them with kindness. Let them know they are part of the one body. If you are of a more humble station like wheelchair Sal, hold your head up and smile. Greet all those you meet with the joy of Christ in your heart. You are very important, too. Remember students one bread, one body, and one Lord of all.
Sal the Sacrifice it All Gal
Sarah Anderson Alley
Quotes of the day:
“The washing of the feet and the sacrament of the Eucharist: two expressions of one and the same mystery of love entrusted to the disciples, so that, Jesus says, “as I have done… so also must you do.” (Jn 13: 15). Pope John Paul II
“When you look at the Crucifix, you understand how much Jesus loved you then. When you look at the Sacred Host you understand how much Jesus loves you now.’”
Blessed Mother Teresa
This bread I break was once the oat,
This wine upon a foreign tree
Plunged in its fruit;
Man in the day or wine at night Laid the crops low, broke the grape’s joy.
Once in this time wine the summer blood
Knocked in the flesh that decked the vine,
Once in this bread
The oat was merry in the wind; Man broke the sun, pulled the wind down.
This flesh you break, this blood you let
 Make desolation in the vein,
Were oat and grape Born of the sensual root and sap; My wine you drink, my bread you snap.
Dylan Thomas

Life and Death

Last Friday was a special day students. It is the birthday of my last child, Abbey. As a mother every child you have bears a special place in your heart. Each one’s birthday is a special day. We have an Independence Day baby, Labor Day baby, Christmas baby, a Mother’s Day baby, and Easter baby. Lots of Alley babies and each one is a treasure and gift from God. Besides celebrating there was lots of work to be done. Working the soup kitchen on Saturday and church Sunday coupled with a COPD exacerbation by Ken made our schedules harried. Papa Ratz aka Papa Smurf has been ordered meds and rest. Two things he hates. He fights to live each day and is a literal miracle. He has end stage COPD. Most people know about Sal the ALS Gal but not about my sweet, amazing husband. Whisper a prayer for him today students. God blessed Ms. Alley with this hard working and selfless man. I’m not ready to live in a world without him.
Students we have covered many virtues. Seven ways to make a difference. Today I read about life and death. Death is something we all have to face. Humans have a different consciousness than do other animals. We have a consciousness that knows we are going to die. Other animals live their lives without worries about the end of their earthly existence. Why? I believe we are created in the image of the creator. The Creator is eternal and therefore a part of us is as well. How do we deal with this? We are one week away from Holy week. Holy week is the week that we march Christ to the cross. We escort him to his death. This is the Pinnacle of our faith. In this heinous act, death was defeated. We are given answers to our own death. Jesus showed us that there is life after death. He paved our path to ressurrection. Living with disabilities and illnesses is only a part of our journey. I believe our death is a birth into the eternal. Be not afraid students.
Today’s lesson was a heavy lesson. No one wants to think about death. So let’s talk about life. Life is what happens between birth and death. How is your life? Is it full? Are you disappointed? Are you angry? I hope your life is going well. If it isn’t students you need to take inventory. On my journey sometimes I reach a dark patch and I find that I am focusing inward. I am counting all the crosses that I bear. I am wanting to know why they are there. Why did someone so young in the middle of life end their earthly journey? Why do good people have horrible cancers? I become angry. I want to lash out at God. Guess what students? There are days that I lash out but they are becoming fewer and fewer as I journey toward my death. You see God is not a rescuer; He is a redeemer. It is so easy to confuse the two. We mere humans want to be rescued from cancer, strokes, COPD, ALS, young deaths of children, and all the other unexplicable tragedies that we traverse through on Earth. There in lies our mystery. The mystery that our journey redeems us to be born again in death to the next life. So if you are not in a happy place in your life, try to practice you’re virtues. Remember as a Christian you have a job to do. You are to live your faith. That means more than showing up to church once a week. Being a Christian has to be the most important part of your life. That Sunday that you do attend church should redeem and refresh you for your job you have each week. It is hard back row, but I believe you can do it. I implore you to be found. Next week begins our Holy Week of Lent. We will relive the death of our savior, Jesus Christ. But on that third day our tears will be dried and our hearts will be full because we know we are redeemed. We are preparing to live our lives with purpose and at our deaths we are restored to everlasting life.
Sal the Redemption Loving Gal
Sarah Anderson Alley
Quote of the day:
I love those who can smile in trouble, who can gather strength from distress, and grow brave by reflection. ‘Tis the business of little minds to shrink, but they whose heart is firm, and whose conscience approves their conduct, will pursue their principles unto death.
Leonardo da Vinci
Back row, not the blue Ninja turtle!

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

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.