The Epiphany of our Lord

 In my mind today I am thinking of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. We hear of this every year at Christmas time. Have we ever really taken the time students to look these things up and to define them and create connections within your own minds?  It is true what teachers tell you. If you see something unfamiliar or you have no clue, use a dictionary. These three gifts were given and recorded throughout history. King Herod knew the implications of such gifts. He held power over the tribe of Judah. He controlled their high priests. He murdered so many Jewish boys trying to stop the rise of a new King of the Jews. His plans were thwarted. This powerful birth had been foretold. The whole Earth rejoiced and nature sang. Here’s the secret sauce students. It still does. So many good and beautiful things happen at Christmas more than any other time of the year. Let’s talk about those three gifts.

Gold. Think about it, students: the golden rule, the gold standard, more precious than gold, etc. Gold is a precious metal. It has a symbol of AU on the periodic table of elements. They brought the baby Jesus something priceless. A gift to show the worth of this blessed son that would save the world by allowing Agape to be the guidance for all from this day forward. Students, Agape is a special kind of love: sacrificial. What an amazing gift He is. What could we give God this year that is more precious than gold? Could you show great charity? Think about that. 

Frankincense. This is a gum or sap that comes from trees in Somalia and coastal Arabia. It is used for its strong perfume when burnt. The smoke is aromatic and used for rituals. It is very expensive. They have discovered that it is good for medicinal reasons:  asthma, ibs, cancer, skin problems, and arthritis.  It is still harvested today. This gift shows devotion to the health and life of Christ.  Christ still lives today within each one of us if we only allow him to be in charge of our hearts.  How can you show great devotion, students?  Yes it is homework.

 Last but not least, myrrh.  It is also a resin or gum from a tree. These trees grow naturally in these countries: Saudi Arabia, Oman, Yemen, Somalia, and eastern Ethiopia.  It also has medicinal properties just like frankincense.  It also has uses for perfume and incense. It has been used before Christ came as a man in religious ceremonies of the Hebrews.  Moses used it. Jacob used it. Esther used it. Jesus was given it on the cross mixed with wine. Joseph of Arimathea gave it for Jesus’s burial.  Ancient Egyptians as do those of Islamic faith used and use it.  It is used to anoint holy people.  It represents a sacrifice. What could you sacrifice for Christ?  Would you sacrifice? Some people can’t even do this. They have become so self centered which is the very opposite of why Christ came to this world. Agape. 

 Today is the last day of Christmas for us as Catholic christians. It is the Epiphany of our Lord.  The realization that God did enter the world and He came to save us by giving us a better way to love: Agape.  As I watch the children from my window play in the snow, I wish you a Happy Agape Day!  Now get outside and enjoy students! Build a Snowman for me and throw a few snowballs! The best of all is to sled.  Be sure to do plenty of that! 

Sarah Anderson Alley 

Sal the Agape Gal

 Quotes of the Day:

1. “When one has once fully entered the realm of love, the world — no matter how imperfect — becomes rich and beautiful, it consists solely of opportunities for love.”

― Søren Kierkegaard, ‘Works Of Love’, 1847.

2. “Shine your soul with the same egoless humility as the rainbow and no matter where you go in this world or the next, love will find you, attend you, and bless you.”

― Aberjhani, ‘Journey Through The Power Of The Rainbow: Quotations From A Life Made Out Of Poetry’, 2014.

3. “Divine love, agape, is self-sacrificing love, which sounds difficult, as it is, and not very attractive. If the best image we have of love is of a man who’s been tortured and hung upon a cross … But it is the highest Christian image of love.”

― Kevin Hart, ‘The Poetry And Prayers Of Kevin Hart’, 2011.

4. “Agape is total love… Whoever knows and experiences agape learns that nothing else in the world is important – just love.”

― Paolo Coelho, ‘The Pilgrimage’, 1987.

5. “The only way love can last a lifetime is if it’s unconditional. The truth is this: love is not determined by the one being loved but rather by the one choosing to love.”

― Stephen Kendrick, ‘The Love Dare’, 2008.

https://kidadl.com/articles/best-agape-love-quotes-about-unconditional-love

Cause and Effect

In my mind today I am thinking about cause and effect. I remember the days of teaching Language Arts. Oh, how I loved to intertwine all of those academic subjects into one! I was even able to teach history through the language arts. The history teachers loved me. Language arts is the study of literature, writing, vocabulary, spelling, and grammar. 

Today I am talking about cause and effect. This used to be a standard in the curriculum that we had to be sure students understood. The thing is it can be applied to our lives today.  This is how you teach. You teach students to use what they learned in your class and apply it to the lives that they will live as adults. 

Cause and effect. Let’s look at our world today. What is causing all of the grief and turmoil in this world? In our country? In our little cities? In our homes?  Let’s work backwards. Yes students, I know I have taught you many ways to figure out problems especially in math. Look at the answer 21, and then figure out, how in the world did you get that answer? Well that is cause and effect. What caused you to get the number 21, for example? Did you multiply seven 3 times? Did you add up three rows of 7? What operation did you use to get the answer 21?

Cause and effect. What is happening right now in our world? What causes: School shootings, unwanted children, fatherless children, children orphaned from addictions of their parents, genocides, human trafficking, plagues, floods, famine, etc. These are all effects. What causes this to happen in a society of civilized people? We are definitely not focused on the family. I said this on purpose because this is something I used to listen to and read books about from the person that coined this phrase: Dr. James Dobson.

When I became a mother, I became scared. Scared of what the world would do to my children. I was so desperate to find a way to protect them. The first thing I did was to ask my husband to help us find a church to attend and raise our children. This is something that I never had but I saw others had. I had a very hard working mother, trying to survive with 5 children and an absent father for a while because of addictions. She didn’t have the luxury of time to take us to church. She would find church services on television to help us or to watch with her. She made me understand how important it was to have God the Father, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit to help you through all these terrible famines, floods, and storms of life. One of her favorites for us to watch together was Adrian Rogers of Bellevue Baptist church in Memphis, Tennessee. 

You see, my mother never learned to drive, but she tried to find a way to help us look towards something bigger that would help us have order at our houses and homes when we became mothers and fathers. My 5th grade teacher called the television the Idiot Box. I understand why because now we have miniature idiot boxes. We are letting things control us instead of using them to help us. My mother used the Idiot Box to help us the best way she could while working late shifts and overtimes so we could be okay. 

Students, let’s analyze this. The cause of me searching so desperately to be the best mother I could possibly be was my mother pointing the way to something better than this life. My mother did not have a lot of money, but she had so much love for her God and her children. She knew that that would be a greater gift. She prayed all of the time. We found several notebooks filled with prayers for us. We understood she feared for our souls as well as our Earthly lives. She knew that she was limited, but her God wasn’t. He would help us through the storms of life. She told us there was a right and wrong. The effects of my mother’s love and prayers are that some of her children are still believing and try to give their children that inheritance that can never be taken away. Back row students, listen. My mother had 5 children, and we are not perfect, but we do understand that this world is not the end of it all. She is the reason. She is the cause, and my life is the effect. 

Let’s take the lesson to a bigger picture than just one family. Look at the world. We have children murdered every day. I am sad to say in the good old USA we have abortions, school shootings, and human trafficking. What is the cause of this? We are losing our connection with the Divine. Mothers do not know how to be mothers. Fathers do not know how to be fathers. Children are brought into a world of turmoil. They have no structure. Destruction is what they have, or a structure of busyness. 

We are too busy to go to church. We are too busy to spend time with our children. We have been lulled to sleep with technology and the fear of missing out. YouTube is a babysitter. Being a parent is the hardest job if you do it right. It is a huge struggle. We don’t have the time to do it the way it should be done. We do have time, however, to shuffle thousands of activities that keep them from being children. We want them to be something bigger.

I was an athlete, and it is true that your competition practices while you are asleep. In reality, only a small percentage will be able to go forward as a professional athlete, but then what? In one of the blogs I have written recently, I talked about building things up instead of tearing things down. If you do not understand your past, and if you do not have traditions that are good and pure for your family, then your present moments are just discombobulated. 

We live in the present moment. Our present moments are guided by our traditions of family. If we tear those down, we have done a grave injustice to our children. If you spend all of your moments without goals, you have no future. You won’t have a future. We want everything right now. Impatience. 

Students, do you think that we are very impatient? We cannot tear down our family traditions, because if we do, we tear down our families. That is exactly what El Diablo wants. He wants us to forget how to be mothers and fathers. Is it working? My precious mother knew that when she had children, they would be her legacy. They would be how she put what she loved so dearly into the future. What are the mothers and fathers of today putting into their children for a legacy? Are they filling them with virtue and morals? Or are they teaching them how to be a better rat in the rat race? 

Here’s the rub: they are not teaching much of anything to the children anymore.  It is not the school’s job to raise your children. It is not the government’s job to provide for all of your children. It is your job. It would be fabulous to have a professional athlete for a son or daughter, but the BEST joy is to be a good mother or father. To see them choose the better part of this earthly life, which is to love each other and to take care of the most important thing that God gives us: our families. 

Wake up, America. Wake up, world. Just like James Dobson told us, we need to focus on the family if we want to make what we have left a better place to live. Understand that love is an action verb. It is not an emotion. It is not sex or lust. It is a sacrificial gift of one person to another. Sacrifice. It gives up everything to God.  

Sacrifice your desires to help your partner be the best mother or father they could possibly be. That goes both ways within a marriage. That’s why we call marriage a sacrament from God. It is not to be looked upon as all pleasure. It is not to be looked upon as trivial or easy. Marriage and love are very hard. It is not just a whimsical passion of unfettered love. We have definitely lost our focus on the family.  

This is the 1st week of advent, and this is what I hope for us in this country: focus on the family again. Yes back row, this is homework!

Sarah Anderson Alley 

Sal the Cause and Effect Gal

Quotes of the Day:

The best way to get children to do what you want is to spend time with them before disciplinary problems occur—having fun together and enjoying mutual laughter and joy. When those moments of love and closeness happen, kids are not as tempted to challenge and test the limits. Many confrontations can be avoided by building friendships with kids and thereby making them want to cooperate at home. It sure beats anger as a motivator of little ones!

Nations that are populated largely by immature, immoral, weak-willed, cowardly, and self-indulgent men cannot and will not long endure. These types of men include those who sire and abandon their children; who cheat on their wives; who lie, steal, and covet; who hate their countrymen; and who serve no god but money. That is the direction culture is taking today’s boys.

Don’t marry the person you think you can live with; marry only the individual you think you can’t live without.

No man stands so tall as when he stoops to help a child.

Great beginnings are not as important as the way one finishes.

Whenever two human beings spend time together, sooner or later they will probably irritate one another. This is true of best friends, married couples, parents and children, or teachers and students. The question is: How do they respond when friction occurs? There are four basic ways they can react: 

• They can internalize the anger and send it downward into a memory bank that never forgets. This creates great pressure within and can even result in disease and other problems.

• They can pout and be rude without discussing the issues. This further irritates the other person and leaves him or her to draw his or her own conclusions about what the problem may be.

• They can blow up and try to hurt the other person. This causes the death of friendships, marriages, homes, and businesses.

• Or they can talk to one another about their feelings, being very careful not to attack the dignity and worth of the other person. This approach often leads to permanent and healthy relationships.

Dr. James C. Dobson

Autumn March for ALS 2021

In my mind today, I am excited about having time to write. October has grown from being a one event to a multi – event month. My family, God bless them, for putting up with me and my divinely inspired ways to pump good into our little corner of the world. This month I have really pushed all of my family to the precipice of sanity. I apologise, but look at how God blessed others through the efforts of my family and friends. That’s what it’s all about students. Pouring out yourself for others. 

This year without key players to pull off the race, it became my beast of burden. I knew God would bring the people to pull it off. The Alley Alliance is a Motley crew of dedicated individuals. We have learned to persevere despite cancer, strokes, mental illness, ALS, death, etc. I could fill the entire blog with the obstacles we deal with and shoulder as a team. The most important member is God. He literally carries us each year. He carries me all the time. I feel it. 

  The race is every year on the 3rd Saturday of October. It has been this way now for 32 years. I definitely do not want to jinx the race but there has only been one day out of the 32 years that it has rained.  This year the race fell a lot earlier because of the calendar. There was a huge chance of rain that morning. The clouds parted and it was so beautiful.  There was not a one single cloud in the sky. Miracles. I cannot even tell you how many angels showed up that day to help this be such a beautiful day. There were old friends and new friends that came to do the work to make this happen. There were so many people praying for the race in heaven as well as on Earth. So many beautiful things have been born out of the Autumn March for ALS: What Ever It Takes Scholarships, Bart Williams Cookie Scholarships, Back to School Biking for Bart, Addi’s Haunted Trail, connections with Depot Days race and stronger ties with Newbern, Tennessee, and CHRISTgiving 2021. The race ties so many people together in our little community from the YMCA to the Parks and Recreation authorities. It includes people from all walks of life from mayors to farmers. We are able to do so much good for all of those around us just because of this little race. Next year will be year 7 for me as the race director, God willing.  It will be October 15th 2022 downtown Dyersburg, TN at 9 AM. If you want to be a part of something wonderful then mark your calendar! I know next year will be even bigger and better for the greater good.  Thank you to the entirety of our little county in Tennessee.  It is so wonderful to be a part of such a lovely and loving community. Thanks be to God.

Sarah Anderson Alley 

Sal the Autumn March Gal 

Quote for the Day:

Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not.

Dr. Seuss

The meaning of life is to find your gift. The purpose of life is to give it away.

Picasso 

Non nobis solum nati sumus. (Not for ourselves alone are we born.)

Cicero 

We make a living by what we get, we make a life by what we give.

Winston Churchill 

Service to others is the rent you pay for your room here on earth.

Mohammad Ali

Only a life lived for others is a life worthwhile.

Einstein 

In a gentle way, you can shake the world.

Gandhi 

Be who God meant you to be and you will set the world on fire.

St. Catherine of Siena

Indiana Alley

In my mind, I have been very busy. So has my sweet little family because of me. It is so hard to be a caregiver. I think it is the hardest thing ever. It becomes very tenuous at times whenever those closest to me become exhausted and even hurt because of my ALS adventure.

This past week has been a whirlwind. Lots of jobs to do and lots of places to go to advocate for the good. I absolutely wear my family out. My son who is my main caregiver had his back go out. My daughter who has been my main caregiver as well during the pandemic and the summer has gone to a summer adventure archaeological dig for school. My poor husband has to be on continuous oxygen all the time. His health is just as fragile as mine. I really cannot write this crazy stuff that happens to us. My other son has two little ones and his life is very wild trying to build a family and work. This is why I have some days that are just crying days.

I cry because my children should not have to do this for me. Don’t get me wrong I am so very grateful for them. I do not want to hurt them and that’s what it feels like on these crying days. My sweet sister has had to come and try to fill in the empty spaces but this is not fair for her. She just began her season of retirement. ALS just plainly sucks, that’s all it is in a nutshell. The days that I watch my family suffer because of me hurts me more than anything. I have to cry through the tears just to write this stuff. It hurts so, so much in my heart and in my soul. Mother’s are supposed to take care of their children, not the other way around. I truly hate that my family has drawn the short straw.

As we hurriedly tried to get everything together for my last little bird to head out for her archaeological adventure, I found myself having little spells of grief and crying. She and I have this secret club; it is the Bug Club. We had so many days together this summer working at the library with children that we didn’t have extra special bug-to-bug time a lot. We shared ourselves with the community and at the end of the summer I found myself craving for just a little more bug to bug time. Our last little bug adventure was to Charlene’s Tea Room. The next day I had Bunco with the Bunco girls. We rushed out after Bunco so I could go to church with her that evening. She was not going to be able to go to Sunday services because of leaving on the archaeological adventure AKA Indiana Alley. Everything was just going by at light speed. That’s how life is. If you do not enjoy the journey, you end up a very sad person. I had enjoyed this journey and I was wanting more but I knew this season was over. That’s why I was flooded with so many tears. When she left I became almost inconsolable. Unbeknownst to me she had to come back in for something and she heard me crying. She came around the corner and said, “What’s going on with you?” I just kept blubbering and crying. She washed my face, cleaned out my snoot, and let me blow my nose. She was very adult-like and told me, “You’ve got to cut this out. I’m not going to be here to wipe your nose again for a while. Big bug you need to strengthen up.” I was able to suck it up buttercup after that. God gave me a little bit of fortitude to reassure her and my little bird was off again.

I didn’t want her to stay with me, that was not why I was such a mess emotionally. I just knew nothing gold could really stay. Remember that quote students? It was the book I did at the first of the year almost every year: The Outsiders. It’s so true. Life is an ebb and flow of good times and bad and a whole lot in between. The important thing is to embrace those golden times. If you didn’t embrace them then you would never cry when they were over. Students, be in the moment of your life. It was our essential rule number 55, carpe diem. This is life. This is my life. This is your life. If you do not treasure your moments, then you are missing out on so much during your earthly journey. No day is ever promised so please get out and enjoy your day. It may be the last one that you get. Yes back row, it’s homework!

Sal the Carpe Diem Gal

Sarah Anderson Alley

Quotes of the Day:

“Give the ones you love wings to fly, roots to come back and reasons to stay.”

—The Dalai Lama

“It is not what you do for your children, but what you have taught them to do for themselves, that will make them successful human beings.”

—Ann Landers

A wise parent humors the desire for independent action, so as to become the friend and advisor when his absolute rule shall cease.”

—Elizabeth Gaskell

What is a Man?

In my mind today I have been thinking about what it means to be a man? Actually I’ve been thinking about this for a long time. Yes are they different from a woman? Physically? Emotionally? Think about it. We all have our idea of what it is to be a man.
I can remember back to my sandlot days. I was such a tom-boy. Anything the guys did I was going to do better or break my neck trying to do it. I loved, loved being outside and physical with the world. I resented when the captain (a boy) demanded to take my last strike in the middle of a game as if we would automatically lose if I took my own last strike. It made me so mad. 
As I sit back in my chair and watch the world go by especially during the pandemic I see that we are lacking so much as an American culture. We have lost our idenity. Our boys have lost their motivation. They have lost their leadership abilities. It is just getting more prevalent each generation. We need to redefine what it means to be a man in this country. If you could right now, write down or brainstorm what it means to be a man to you. If you are a boy write down what you think it means. If you’re a girl write down what you think it means and what kind of man would you want to marry? Think about the shows you watch on television. Which ones are the real men or the definition of it? What about movies? How are men portrayed in the shows or the things that you watch? Remember garbage in and garbage out students. Does what you see align with the definition you wrote or thought of when I asked you? Who are your heroes? Do they have to have fantastical powers? Can an ordinary man just be a hero? Just like the song, where have all the good guys gone?
Many American children today have excess. They don’t have to struggle for food or shelter. This is a good thing, but I think we lost our way though. Haven’t you always heard if you don’t work for it you will not appreciate it? We have a lot of underappreciative generations that are just now becoming adults. I don’t know if I could say appreciative, because they did not have the example that was needed. They did not know how to be men because no one ever showed them. There was no rite of passage for most of them. When do they become men in our American culture? Students do you see why it is important for us to define a man? I don’t want to get into the big gender debate but men are very important whether I want them to take my last strike or not. I am not saying that women cannot lead. I am not saying that women are any less. I am saying there are differences. I don’t understand why we have to demonize men in order to feel good about being a woman. Being a woman is a whole other thing entirely. As a woman I do want my rights, but I do not want to take away from or add to because of my gender. If I work the same job, yes I deserve the same pay. If I want to stay home with my children, I should be looked upon with honor not distain. If my husband is the head of my household, it does not render me powerless it shows that we are united together for the good of our family. I look around and see so many other cultures embracing what we used to have. A family centered around God working together for the greater good. How did we lose this? Are we listening to the right propaganda? Think about it. What is a man? The answer is really simple. It’s like finding the forrest among the trees.
Sal the Concerned Gal

Sarah Anderson Alley
Quotes:
“A return to first principles in a republic is sometimes caused by the simple virtues of one man. His good example has such an influence that the good men strive to imitat

e him, and the wicked are ashamed to lead a life so contrary to his example.” Niccolo Macheveli
“The strength and power of a country depends absolutely on the quantity of good men and women in it.” John Ruskin


“Good men by nature, wish to know. I know that many will call this useless work… men who desire nothing but material riches and are absolutely devoid of that of wisdom, which is the food and only true riches of the mind.” Leonardo da Vinci

…but rejoice because your names are written in heaven. Luke 10:20

Kathy & George

In my mind today I am thinking about death. Just plain and simple death. Our God sweeps in and takes those we love. How we take it so personal when someone has to go. Then we think about fairness; is there any fairness? Is there ever a good time for us humans?
My family and I have been going to the same church for 30 years and my mother-in-law since the 1970’s. This is something very odd for me. Growing up I did not have a home church. I spent many days on church vans trying to find a home for my little young girl soul. You see my mother had to work third shift and there were no family going to church together days. This is something that I found to be very, very important. Will it guarantee your kids always act right? Never. But there is just something about the love of a church for you and for your family that is an extension of the greater love from God. I thank God for my little church.
Recently we have lost so many wonderful people. I shouldn’t say lost. They are home. They have crossed the Rubicon. They have crossed the great divide. I have seen so many of these people for 30 years and now they have started the new journey. Nothing stops it; it will happen. It will come. What’s more important is are you ready? Is anyone really ever ready? I really think so. Whenever you reach your spiritual maturity point, you realize. It is a reckoning within your own soul. There is a peace about you. A peace about the way you live, share your life, and help the least. It just shows in every fiber of your being. Congratulations! When you get to this point, you are well on your way to communion with the Saints. Here is the saddest part, some people never get there. They never cross the maturity into spirituality. Your dying is a birth into new life. Our bodies are the old wineskins. You cannot put good wine into old wineskins. Remember Mary’s request at the wedding and Cannan. Do as her son tells you.
Those who are closest to you will never be ready for you to go but thank God for His plan. Thank God for His Mercy. Thank God for His Grace that is everlasting. It is still a mystery but one that we are privy, too. We will all cross the Jordan, ride the peace train, or just catch that long black train for our next journey. This past year we have seen so many of our church make that journey. It wasn’t all Covid-19 but the natural and slow ebb of living a long fruitful life. Life, are you living it? Or just going through the motions? This is it folks. It is time for people to get ready. You really don’t need a ticket, you just thank the Lord and get on that train knowing you have run the race well. Were you faithful to your spouse? Were you sure your children attended church on Sundays? Were you a good grandparent? Did you love all of those even those who grind your gears? Did you try to do small acts of kindness with no one knowing about them? Did you pray and stay in contact with God throughout this journey? Did you do for the least? Don’t say there aren’t any because we serve 750 families a month at Matthew 25:40. This is the tip of the iceberg. You have a job that only you can do. Jesus calls us our entire lives. I really hope you stopped to listen like our beloved George.
Our last member that left for eternity and communion with the Saints, I remember oh so well. I think we need to buckle up. I think we are going to lose a lot of good people, but we are getting them to the light. We need others to step up. Two years ago I was privileged to go through the RCIA program with our church with my daughter in law. George was also a part of that class. I remember that very first evening. I leaned over as we were going in to ask George if he had decided to join the dark side? Just joking of course, it’s the light side! But he said yep I think I’m going to do it. I knew George from his fabulous older sister who had always been a champion of our local schools and tried to be the good in this little county. Many moons later after his sister had moved on, he began to come with one of our longtime members. Just as he loved us, he was drawn into the love of our little parish. I remember when he began to come to church. My boys were like he looks like a rockstar! We always thought he was the Elvis of Holy Angels. He had the best hair ever. He also dressed like Tony Saprano. Too cool! I just so, so loved to be able to watch him blossom into the fruitful life of being a Catholic Christian. It brings tears even now. I am so happy for George. The waiting is the hardest part. Living while knowing some day, somewhere, somehow, we will be called back to our heavenly creator. We know there is more. I think George was one of the most genuine people I have ever met. He was always so excited to work at the Salvation Army to serve the least. I can still see him and Kathy with their aprons. Smiling, singing, and whistling that was George while mopping or sweeping at The Salvation Army or with the Knights of Columbus fish fries. They with many others helped me and fought to keep our kids active in church. If Matthew 25:40 needed him, he was there. As a matter of fact, if anyone needed him he never hesitated to help out. They were so very supportive and I know that the family will continue to be because that is what Christians do. There’s a kingdom to be built. We were all given tasks. I can say without a doubt that George finished very well and I know no one will argue. When George retired from being a doctor, he could have done anything. He could have traveled extensively. He could have gone on all types of medical conventions and do the circuit learning even more. He could have moved to Knoxville and enjoyed every single ball game. Doesn’t matter the sport, he could have caught them all. He could have chosen to be single, foot-loose and fancy free. He did like Mary instead of Martha, For a while, he sat at God’s feet and soaked up all of God’s love then to he became a Martha for Holy Angels Catholic Church. Thanks be to God for Kathy for opening up her heart again to the sacrament of marriage. Along with God you loved him into eternity. It’s not forever and we will all be together with all of those saints one day, one day.

 Sarah Anderson Alley

Sal the Saint loving Gal

Life is what happens when you’re busy making other plans.”

Take Nothing for the Journey


Take nothing for the journey. Luke 9:3
I read these words over in my mind this morning. Each day I wake I lose something to ALS. It’s not until I try to use a muscle that I realize the disease has creeped further into my neurological system taking something else. My life sounds like a sci-fi movie. Ironically, it looks like it, too. I’m not complaining; I’m rejoicing. The more of ourselves and possessions we leave behind, the closer we are to our next adventure. Humans can’t comprehend needing nothing. When you realize what is valuable usually it’s time to go be with your creator. The light bulb comes on and your gone. If you are part of the ones that get what life is all about, you are a special person. It’s a gift.
Take nothing and give all. The things you give are not burdensome or hard to carry: time and attention. They are sacrificial. They are precious. When they are well spent, the memories, feelings, smells, and warmth will stay with you your entire life. They bridge you to the next world. They feed you soul for the journey. I know so many wonderful people who are blessed to do this through their vocations. In my first season, I was blessed to be able to serve others as a teacher. Whether you are a nurse, waitress, Wal-Mart greeter, lawyer, or politician, it’s all about serving and giving to those in your life path. Give time and attention to each person you encounter. If you do, it’s a game changer not just for them.

Today’s message is a message to me. As I shed the baggage of this earthly life, I am lighter and stronger. In my physically healthy life, I don’t think I could have left behind everything. I couldn’t leave my job, my car, my house, etcetera. A vow of poverty? Delete that. I had been born into hard working, low income family. I earned my degrees and wanted to give my children the opportunities I didn’t have. I wanted them to be proud of me. I wanted them to love me like I loved them with all of my heart. Fast forward 20 years. ALS has taken so much. It took all of the things that I would have had to leave behind: nice, trendy clothes, new cars, shoes, makeup, but we have been blessed to still have our home. It is renovated for this rolling gal. Things are not done to my expectations, but things get done. I’m good with that. My family and friends are doing so much. They envelope me with true love. I have let so much go. Now I’m baggless, stripped down, and free. Free? Yes. Free from social anxiety, competition, and comparing. I go where I’m needed. I use my time, talent, and treasure to serve others. My journey has been and is a beautiful one.

The other part of this message to me is my daughter is considering the religious life. She’s a special one. She gets it. She wants embrace poverty out of the gate. This may change after four years of college. Only God knows. I’m amazed at the selflessness of her and others for considering giving their lives literally for others. These special people take a vow of Poverty, Chastity, and Obedience. They go where the need is. Their lives are never about what they want. It’s always about what God needs. This perspective was a gift from God through ALS. Just like nuns and monks, I take nothing for the journey except the light He puts in me.

Today think about what makes your heart so heavy. There are so many ways to be bogged down: selfish individuality, competition with co-workers and neighbors, gambling and shopping addictions, alcohol and drug addictions, self hate, and feeling sorry for yourself. It’s time to de-clutter. It’s time to be kind. It’s time to pray for yourself and your neighbors. Bob Dylan sings, “You gotta serve somebody. It might be the devil or it may be the Lord. But you gotta serve somebody.” Remember your actions speak louder than words.

Sarah Anderson Alley
Sal the Let it Behind Gal

Quotes of the Day:

In the third grade, a nun stuffed me in a garbage can under her desk because she said that’s where I belonged. I also had the distinction of being the only altar boy knocked down by a priest during mass.
Bruce Springsteen

Your daily life is your temple and your religion. When you enter into it take with you your all.
Kahalil Gibran

However many holy words you read, however many you speak, what good will they do you if you do not act on upon them?
Buddha

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