Martha, Jubliees, and Prophets

It shall be a jubilee for you. (Leviticus 25:10)

In my mind today students, I am thinking about Marthas and Marys as well as years of jubilees. I definitely do not want to forget about prophets. As of late I have been quite the Martha. Students, do you know who I’m talking about? You know the sisters of Lazarus. Martha was that sister that was always busy, busy, busy! She was busy preparing the way to have a great feast or festival to gather as many people together as she possibly could to hear the words of her friend Jesus. Her sister Mary on the other hand was the one that sat at his feet and listened to all of his stories and parables. She listened to Jesus’ philosophy of life. She is also the one that much to Judas’ chagrin used an entire container of perfumed oils on Jesus’s feet. The longer I live with ALS the more I become a Mary. I have been given time to study, read, pray, and reflect on what God really wants for us. During this season I have met the most amazing Martha.

This Martha that I have become a sister with is so like the Martha of Jesus’s time. They’re not enough adjectives to assign to this amazing woman. She has and will continue to try to work and bless others in the little city and county in which we live. Her influence and inspiration doesn’t just reach within the little county borders. Everyone she meets realizes what an amazing woman she is. For years she has been a one-man show or should I say a one-woman show holding up Matthew 25:40 INC by her sheer will. I came up on board with her during one of the most tumultuous seasons of our little nonprofit. She never wavered. She never lost faith. She continually leans on God. She is a friend of those on the fringe of life. I am so glad to be a part of this with her. The little group of women that all fight so desperately for this little non-profit remind me so much of those women that were at the cross. (There’s also good men that are in our boat!) We are building something so beautiful, so big, and we know God is going to bless it. Our goal is to be a non-profit that can stand alone and help all of those in need. You see, we are so very blessed to be tied with wonderful organizations like the United Way. We want to be able to help all people regardless of their station. This is hard to do whenever you have so many guidelines. During the pandemic there were so many new clients that were just like my precious Martha and me. People that just work to survive and to provide for their children. People that want to give their children a hand up not a handout. These people in turn would turn around and give much of their stimulus contributions to us to help keep going forward for all. Jesus told us the poor would always be with us and we do provide very well for them at Matthew 25:40 INC. We want to be able to provide for all of God’s children. That means the ones who fall on hard times, the addicted, the struggling women with children with an absent father or visa-versa, the struggling sons and fathers, and the homeless. All of the Marthas on the ship have so many wonderful ideas and plans to help our little city and county be the healing source God intended for those that are the least. You never know when a storm will come to you. We want to be able to use our faith and God’s Providence to help you. Thanks be to God for all of the Marthas and the Marys.

Yesterday was a great day! It was a day of jubilee. I began reading my scriptures this morning and that was the first thing I read. Jubilees are years of great forgiveness and love. They spread hope. They are new seasons. We had the Back to School Biking for Bart parade yesterday. We had 250 backpacks full of supplies, treats, and chronologically separated for grades ready to go. Several people came with bikes. Several people came just to walk. Several came to just show how wonderful Mr Bart was to us. We had an antique bike rack donated and blessed that will be at the Farmers market to commemorate Mr Bart. We had several new bicycles donated as well as old to be given to children. We had children chanting Mr Bart, Mr Bart, Mr Bart,! This was all going on while his precious grandchildren watched. They know how special their “Cookie” was. His children were so happy. His wife was so gracious as always. We had our own jubilee yesterday! 

Students, what is the definition of a prophet? Come on first row! Don’t think about money all the time. Yes, learned teacher. If you live in this little corner of Tennessee you will probably say you were blessed to know a prophet. That would be my friend, Mr Bart. He was so many things rolled up into one. Everything honorable he possessed. Humility beyond compare. He was very gallant. He was a school counselor and teacher for 40 plus years. Had cancer not come to his door, I know he would still be there today. I don’t really think he was that well known in the little city in which he was born, Miami, Ohio. But boy oh boy, we all know him by name and he knows us. My friend taught me so much and now that he is gone on to bigger acquisitions in heaven. All of us are going to pick up the baton that he has left for us. He really prepared us well. His legacy will continue on. Students, do you think that there are prophets still around today? Oh I really do. They may not wear sandals or dashikis in our little town or county but they are all pulling for you to be the best person you could possibly be. What is that? Well students, the best you could possibly be is to be a living saint. Those are some tough standards to live up to but it is doable. Just look at the long list of saints throughout history. People didn’t just stop trying to live lives as saints; we have just become blind to the possibility of living up to these standards. It is so much easier to not worry about others and their strife. To stay complacent in your comfort and to just live your life for you and not for others. It is a big deal and a big challenge. I really think you could do it, students. I am trying my very best but I also fail. I just won’t give up! Our big friendly giant, Mr Bart, was definitely on to something. He was a quiet man. His life on the other hand screamed volumes of how to be a better person. Students, I want you to look around and search out people that live lives that are honorable. Yes it is homework. I want you to thank them. Just like I am writing this to thank all of you for our little jubilee yesterday! God is good all the time. All the time God is good!

Sarah Anderson Alley

Sal the Prophet Seeking Gal

Quotes of the day:

It shall be a jubilee for you. (Leviticus 25:10)

What you do to the least of these you do to me. (Matthew 25:40)

The words of the prophets are written on the subway walls and tenements halls and whispered in the sounds of silence.

Paul Simon

https://www.matthew2540.org/

Bus stop miracle

In my mind today, I have been thinking of all of the miracles around us. Every day I begin my morning with the readings from the Bible: verses from the Old testament, verses from the New testament, and Psalms. They always speak so loudly to my heart. Ironically and mysteriously they always line up with my life. Is this because I am cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs? Am I a raving lunatic? Something inside me tells me that I am very lucky. Something inside of me woke up when I was diagnosed with ALS. It sent me on a journey to find the way, the truth and the life. I began to read so many things to try to figure out what this earthly life is really all about, and not if, but when I die, what happens? The verses today speak of a man who left heaven to be among us in the suffering world we call home. Crazy, right? There is historical basis and evidence that the man lived and performed lots of miracles. He only got 33 earthly years before death came for him, but for the first time in history, death was not victorious. You see, death is of Hell, not Heaven. Death can no longer be proud. Face it. Everything, from the universe, the solar system, the planet, the beings on the planet, the oceans, the sky, the water cycle, the complicated life forms within forests that are so much older than us, down to the last blade of grass is all inexplicable. Inexplicable. Do you hear me? Not one single human has the ability to understand or to create what we already have in motion. Yes, we are learning tidbits, just like the genetic fixer shot. But we do not have the ability to infuse a soul into a being. Even if I did not have ALS, I would die one day. It is just part of the cycle of life. We desperately try to get as much as we can out of this earthly life, but there’s more. The people that have the abilities to do these wonderful things hopefully have the good of all in their thoughts and hearts. I know that when I take my last breath, it will be just a breath away from eternal life. I will leave this earth headed to heaven. You see it, death was conquered. If you are of heaven, then you will be there in a nanosecond after your last breath. Every electrical pulse within you that helps us to live this earthly life will be jettisoned back to our maker. Remember students, energy can never be created nor destroyed but changed. Today, so many can see only the trees, not the forest.

This morning, I listened to my Flash Briefing and they have a genetic fixer injection. It is so promising. It can possibly correct muscular dystrophies, cancer, and Alzheimer’s. This is so great. Then, I think about how something that has potential for so much good could be used for evil. It made me think about Brave New World. This summer I have sold my soul to the local public library. Much to the chagrin of my family, I have volunteered to do two classes a week with the local children this summer. Hey, I’m not dead yet! This has been such a fruitful season, even though it’s been hectic. On Tuesdays and Thursdays, I get to be with children and adults and talk about art and writing. It’s been so successful that many adults are like, “Can you do this when the kids go back? That way we can enjoy it!” I’m telling you, it has been such a wonderful, wonderful experience. The other upside is that I am getting to use the posh conference room with my book club for adults at the public library. We have first dibs on the conference room with the big cushy chairs with wheels and the huge executive table. Stuff like in the oval office! The name of the book club is called Turn the Page. And yes, students, I love Bob Seger. Selling your soul to the public library gives you some perks. We meet on the third Wednesday of the month. This is also one of the wonderful parts of my life in this season. This group of octogenarians and septuagenarians sprinkled with several other age groups is just absolutely amazing. They are so valuable. I learn so much from them every time we have a book club meeting. This will be our fifth year! These people have lived a life. They see how the world is and how it has changed so rapidly, ignoring the traditions and virtues that were passed down culturally from grandparent to parent to child. Generational love that extends across time. All of these wonderful book club members have this and they share so much. Our culture today is toxic to those who are the most vulnerable. If you look at it, in a way, we are institutionalizing our children from the cradle to the grave. I am so grateful that these people I meet with are able to still live independently. They are just treasure troves of knowledge. Several are veterans of different wars, discussing things within the same group. It’s great! One of my star pupils is Vernita. As we were discussing our book this month, Brave New World, she told the group that she didn’t understand why Ms Sarah had wanted all of us to read this book until she got about three chapters into it. She said, “Bingo! This stuff is happening today.” Sadly, it is. Separate and destroy the nuclear family and you can take down any culture. You will destroy their children. Look around you. We are so tied up with trying to make heaven on Earth that we are losing something much more precious, and that is living in the moment, absorbing the beauty of nature, relishing the love of family, and sharing such wonderful lives that grow so much fruit for those that will come after us. I am asking you, students, to care first and foremost for your family, your community, your friends, the gift of your station here on this Earth, and the ability to know that love conquers all. The station of your life has a lot to do with the choices you make. We are all such fragile human beings created with a light or an electric pulse, however you look at it. It is part of something so much bigger. Something so much stronger than where you were born or who your parents are. God did not create you to be destroyed but to be redeemed. The devil is the destroyer. God wants you to be with Him one day.

After having the classes with the children on Tuesdays and Thursdays, we usually go down to a little mom and pop coffee shop called The Bus Stop. A little history lesson is that The Bus Stop was the original bus stop in our little town, and it has now been refurbished and repurposed. This is our little dive. We were there last Thursday. I was rolling around the downtown area and going to another little mom and pop shop to purchase something. Another good reason to do the library activities is that I get to be with my grandchildren and lots of other children. As my oldest grandchild and I were going back across the street to meet the others at the coffee shop, I had a man come up to me, and he wanted to pray for me. Now, we were getting ready to load up the mystery machine AKA my big blue handicap van. He asked me if I had a moment, and I always do if someone wants to pray for me. He said, “I recently have been given a miracle. I have been woken up to the spirit and power of God. I almost lost my son. God brought him back to me.” He explained that he had been raised Christian but had never really felt or understood the power until he almost lost his child. He said his life was a wreck. His marriage was a wreck. He said his children had suffered from their broken marriage. After his son was given a miracle, he has been urged to share and to pray for others. He said, “When I saw you cross the street, I thought to myself, that woman could barely breathe. She rolls in a wheelchair, and God said, ‘Go pray for her.'” The first thing he asked me as he approached was, “Do you believe in miracles?” Now remember, we are trying to load the mystery machine. I have two grandchildren with me, me and my ALS awkwardness, and my 82-year-old mother-in-law. He wanted to speak to me, and I answered him. I said, “Yes, absolutely. You can pray for me.” He had told me he was inside of the coffee shop trying to write about the miracle of his family. We talked for at least 30 minutes and probably even more because we began to pray for each other. My family had loaded into the mystery machine while he and I had our moments of prayers and thoughts. Miracles.

The last two days of my readings have been about miracles. Today was the one about the little girl that everyone thought was dead and Jesus told the man, “She will live.” Recently, I heard about a little girl who was in a similar situation. She was about 12 years old. Her wonderful young mother has to do everything from being the father and the mother and everything in between. She survived a broken marriage, and she fought her way through school. She became a teacher. All of this while being a single mom. Family and friends have helped her through this season. Tragically, the same Thursday I was talking with this man about miracles, she was in a car accident. She survived. Her son survived but has lots of injuries to his legs and many surgeries ahead of him. Her young daughter, around 12 years old, did not. Also, one of the students this summer at the library has a terminally ill brother, and as he talked with me, he let me know that his brother is enroute to heaven. He is now at the doorstep. How can these families survive this gut-wrenching grief? Here is where belief in God gets really hard. So many precious mothers lose children. It always makes me think of the man that performed so many miracles. His earthly life ended with his mother at the foot of a brutal crucifixion. Precious blood pooled around his feet. The precious blood was poured out for all. And then you think about the agony of Mary having to watch a child being tortured to death and then you really get how Mary’s heart felt. How this father felt. How this mother felt.  But thanks to the sacrifice of that man of 33 years, because of that the little girl who’s just entered heaven was only away for a nanosecond. Death is no more for her. She is of heaven. What does it take to get through the travesties of human life? Faith. Is it explainable? Not always. Will you know for sure or can you understand totally? Maybe. I hope it doesn’t take cancer, ALS, losing a child, or any type of terminal diagnosis for you to understand. Don’t ever forget that there are angels above us and among us that help us through these times. Don’t ever forget that there is an advocate in the Holy Spirit to help us with our journey each day. Don’t ever forget that there is a son of God and He did come to Earth. Don’t ever forget to love God with all your heart, soul and mind and especially above all things. Love your neighbor as you love yourself. If you do these things students, you will be part of the body of Christ. If you do this, before you know it you will be back with the Father who has all the answers you ever thought to ask and even ones you didn’t. Miracles.

Sarah Anderson Alley

Sal the Miracle Gal

Dedicated to Jason, Amber, Kim, and to all those out there who have cried out for their children. 

Nothing but heaven itself is better than a friend who is really a friend.

Plautus

Basketball and Brokenness

In my mind today I am thinking about brokenness and basketball. There are so many ways to break your body playing sports. The relentless practices while everyone else is sleeping is the real deal. My mother to this day tells me that I have run my body in to the wheelchair. You see she has a hard time remembering the recent years. Each time I get to see her it breaks her heart over and over again. We soon move forward after the initial shock, she sees that my body may be broken but my spirit is brighter than ever. All Thanks be to God. We then talk about her childhood and my childhood and the beautiful memories we have. We begin to see the way God has never forsaketh this poor, humble and beautiful family warts and all. The first visit we were blessed to have after the pandemic we sat on my back porch and talked the sun down. I was able to spend my favourite time of the day with her. The blue hour right after sunset is when I feel and hear God the best. Students look up the blue hour on the internet. Find a day to sit and watch God’s glory in your heart and soul. I guarantee that your heart will stir within your chest. This, my wonderful students, is the Holy Spirit. Yes back row it’s homework! Yes you can even have a beer as you watch, but remember everything in moderation.

Let’s get back to the Glory Days of my youth. This is what God has urged me to share :blessings from brokenness. I remember all of those wonderful years of my youth playing sports in my small town. My love for sports came at such a young age. I was blessed that my parents were able to purchase a small, beautiful house in a new upcoming neighbourhood. We would leave the government projects and my mother would be able to fulfil a lifelong dream of owning her own home. It would be a sanctuary of sorts for her five children. She paid eighty one dollars a month for thirty years. She did. She is still living there by God’s love and the love of the children she bore. The move from the city to this rural neighbourhood blessed me immensely. I had lots of kids to play kickball, baseball, and basketball. One of the kids whose parents had a double lot let us have our own “sandlot.” Yes back row, kids really did play ball in their neighbourhoods like the movie. Where do you think they got the idea for the movie? Fact is better than fiction! Yes back row, add that to the homework.. Watch The Sandlot and laugh your arses off.

This new neighbourhood also blessed me with a small county school to attend. I can fill books with all of our Holice Powell Elementary School antics. Sadly as I began my school adventure my father’s five years of sobriety ended. He would be estranged from us for until my eighth grade year at HPS. God provided me with a beautiful friend and her family loved me as their own daughter. You see, my mother never learned to drive. She also worked third shift at the nursing home. She entrusted her youngest daughter to this amazing family. It started with PTO basketball in the third grade on Friday nights at the school. My best friend’s mom was our coach. They were so vital to me in this broken season. They picked me up and took me home for almost the entirety of my childhood. It Began with PTO basketball but this family encouraged me to play basketball and softball at the Neighbourhood Activity Center until their daughter and I could be on the little basketball team at Holice Powell. Our little school was K-8. We continued softball at the NAC throughout our lives playing on various church teams as young adults. I thank God for that place that was started and staffed by the Johnson family. The impact it has on our little city is still reverberating to this day. This amazing family started the parks and recreation for our town with lots of blood, sweat, tears and the love of Christ. Today there are three pools, beautiful parks with walking trails, tennis courts, softball fields, weight room, community rooms for family gatherings, and last but not least, gymnasiums. They gave us children places to have good clean fun. I spent many summers splashing in the pools they advocated for and yes back row it was so similar to The Sandlot. Watch it!

My father had gone to the VA Hospital in his early fifties, around 52. He rejoined our family. He was on his road to redemption. He became involved in my life with sports and even coached my softball teams at the Neighbourhood Activity Center. I owed so much to the family that nurtured me until my family became whole again. My childhood friend became involved in AAU travel basketball in the summers of our high school years. We drifted apart and had different friend groups but continued to play basketball for our high school :DHS. We had one of the first great girls basketball teams at our school. The other successful team had been decades earlier and led by Lillian Yarbro. Our four years of high school we made it to the state tournament three of the four. The whole city loved us. I thank God every day for my small town. My senior year, we won the district but lost in the second round of the regional tournament. It was one of those games that the mojo was not in our favour. It was a gut wrenching loss and the season of high school was over.

The next season would be college. I had no idea how to navigate the scholarship and college selection. I had a decent ACT score but my choices were dwindling because I waited until the last minute to choose. The University of Memphis, then Memphis State, had an available full scholarship. I had always loved the Tigers and would mimic the center, Keith Lee, in my backyard on the dirt court. There was absolutely no grass in the basketball area. It had been worn off by years of backyard ball. I wanted to make my little city proud so I chose Memphis State. The first year was so hard. In the country growing up, your chickens have pecking orders. I was the lowest in our pecking order. I had not sat on the bench since 7th grade. I was now in the big pond. The coach and I never clicked. I was a free spirit. I was not the best player and I lacked confidence. I went to a coach that thrived on fast breaks and pressure defense from half court sets and slow down defense. College had the shot clock. I wasn’t in Kansas anymore. I swallowed my pride and sat on the bench. I told myself next year I would come in ready. I promised myself I would be better. In the summer I worked for a daycare keeping school age children. That next fall I came back to college with a mission. I was going to get some playing time. I worked so hard however I was still a ghost to my coach. The last straw was the Tennessee game against the legendary coach Pat Head Summit. We had two outstanding post players and at the half we were tied. Our outside game was nonexistent. We needed shooters. I was a baller shot-caller. I was big, skinny, slow, but I could shoot from anywhere on the court. She played every single person but me. After the game the first words out of her mouth in the locker room were, “Girls, you fought hard but I tried every combination possible. We needed outside shooting. “I felt so small. She looked directly at me but never put me in the game. I felt like the Isralites of the Old Testament. I was girding my loins and fleeing. I went to the dorm, packed up, and headed home. The coaches came by to talk me down. Even she who could not be named. I went back home and back to the day care where I would meet the love of my life. I turned down two more scholarships and got married.

For years I lived a quiet life. Ashamed that I had let my city down. I was determined to rectify the failure. I went to the local community college and began my own road to redemption. I had to go before the board and tell them I would fulfil the scholarship. I was granted one year of eligibility. I would go back, play, and get my GPA back up. A fire had been lit inside me. My life was different now. My husband and I had children and I had a much bigger reason to succeed. I received my associate degree in science. I began my junior year at The University of Memphis. I graduated in 1997. This was exactly ten years from my high school graduation. My husband and I had four children and I began my teaching career. I was blessed to serve the children of my city for twenty years before ALS. I was able to give back and love them the way they loved me. No more shame. Just love. Love covers so many sins and hurts. Students, today the lesson is never give up and always get up. Every life road will have pot holes and forks. Not one life is perfectly happy. The happiness is in the journey. Allow God to shoulder your failures and try again. Choose good. Choose God. Students, those are the key.

Sarah Anderson Alley
Sal the ALS Gal

Quote for the Day
Jeremiah 29:11
“For I know the plans I have for you, “declares the Lord, “ plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.

Political, Material, and Self

“We live in a post-Christian world that puts its eggs into three basic baskets: political, material, and self.”


In my mind today I am try desperately to figure out how to go forward. I read recently about how as humans in a post Christian world we put things into three categories: political, material, and self. What do we really worry about in this modern life? I guess I’m not so modern in my thinking because it is easy to get swept away into the fray of chaos which we live in now more than ever.


I have always been proud to be an American. So proud until I learned of all of the growing pain of this country. We have done a lot of good but we have failed on so many levels. I was never enamoured by political parties of any sort. I tried to figure out which party would be best for all. Which political party would serve its constituents the best? Political parties in my thoughts were to keep the country going and doing the best it can for each of its individuals. I remember George Washington warning of the evils of political parties from my textbooks. We just have such a hard time listening. In my small little mind,  I have always thought the government was there to work for us: the people. I didn’t think it was there to define what a human was; all it was to do was to clarify that we all have inalienable rights and yes those come from the Creator. You are supposed to keep God out of things political. When God is the creator of all things, it seems kind of silly to try to keep him out of it. We did not need government to tell us how or when we should worship. That goes with our inalienable rights given not only by government supposedly but from God. Remember free will? The free will to choose what we believe without fear of being tarred and feathered. God is gracious enough to give us the choice because he knows if those choices are not made with a heart a willing heart then it is a moot point. You do have to believe something or you will fall for anything. I used to love to teach The Bill of Rights. We have these rights: speech, religion, press, assembly, and petition. This is just the first amendment. It did get me in a lot of trouble because my students would then petition the cafeteria and post things around the school. The lunch ladies were not too happy. I had to explain to them that the students were just exercising their right and we understood their hands were tied by the food services they had to use and the rules they had to go by given from the government. The students wanted to get their point across. They did. Right now the political party thorn is wedging deeper and deeper into our American culture. I keep hearing George Washington warning us and then I hear on the news of more and more unrest. I know I’m just a retired teacher with a lot of time on my hands in a wheelchair but if things do not work, can’t there be change? Just this morning I was listening to the news for 5 minutes. That’s all I allow myself. A 5-minute briefing of what’s going on in the world. Something that jumped out at me was in Germany they have a Christian Democratic party. The ideals of this party are based within their faith. You don’t believe in them; you get out. Do the Germans have an oppressive Christian Democratic party that is leeching all of the life out of them? I don’t think so. The ideals of Christianity are constantly attacked. The ideals that we tried to live up to as Christians are very good ideals. We need to live up to them. If we did, it would help save a lot of grief. If everything was created with the widowed and the orphaned in mind and the protection of those most vunerable in our little communities then so much goodness could come out of it. We tend to do this anyway without the legality of the government. We are constantly fighting poverty the best that we can in my little corner of the world. This is what needs to be fought: Poverty. Ignorance. Greed. Change, it’s hard. There are good things out there with our political affiliations but there’s also a lot of bad. It is time that we change. It is time that we say we want a party that is affiliated with our ideals and beliefs. The country cannot be a theocracy but the political parties can be affiliated with such. This is the segue for all of those hurting and wondering what’s going on in our country? How many more people would be apart of a democratic party if it was called the Christian Democratic party? How about a Christian Republican party? I think there will be millions. I am not ready to give up my ideals about faith just like so many others out there. I cannot be a part of taking lives. It states thou shalt not kill in bold black and  white. We have created ways to make money while punishing or subjecting others. This is wrong. Corruption is everywhere. Restorative justice. Redemption. These things sound so familiar. We have to make changes for the greater good of all. Are we a post Christian society? I don’t think so.


The second category is material. Materialism. Consumerism. This is another thing we as humans worry about. Yes we should worry if we have a roof over our head. Yes we should worry if our children are not being educated. I think the material trap is part of the corporate world to keep us running for something to fill a hole that can only be filled by contentment. Contentment. When is enough for you to be content with your life? Is it when you finally move into that exclusive neighborhood? Is it when you finally have designer clothes and purses? Is it when you are driving the newest Cadillac? When do you become content? It’s certainly not after you receive the monthly payments on that Cadillac. It’s a trap. We feel like we need more. Most have enough to be okay. My father would always say we’re not trying to keep up with the Joneses. That’s exactly what everyone is trying to do. Every family cannot be a Roosevelt, Carnegie, or Rockefeller. The sad thing is we try so very hard to keep up. In this effort to keep up, we trade a lot of things that are very important. One of those things we have traded is our family structure. In order for us to have the things that we have we have to sacrifice by allowing someone else to raise our children. This is good if you can afford the best and people who have the best interest in your children. I am very blessed that family always helped with my children. My job was aligned with their schedules. It really was a win-win situation. So many people are not this fortunate. They lean on the institutions we have put in place so they can continue to work so they can buy stuff. As the corporate world boomed, the pay for the workers did not. Herein lies why we are so angry. The wealth generated by these corporations could have done more than they have for the American people they depended upon. I just keep hearing George Bailey telling Mr. Potter, “Is it too much to ask for someone to have two bedrooms and a bathroom with a decent roof over their heads?” That’s all anyone really wants is to be able to provide and take care of their families. We have got to get off of this track of wanting materialistic empty items. We want contentment. The only way my friend to get contentment is to be okay with what you have. To see all the blessings around you and to be glad for those blessings. It’s wanting what you have. What do most Americans want? They want to say the American dream is dead but I don’t think so. We all want to have lives with meaning spent with people we love. Some of the poorest people in the world are the most content. It is so sad that we have missed the mark so badly. There is no big surprise to the ending of each of our lives. We are going to perish from this world. I am with George Bailey. I think that everyone should have the chance to not be cheated and to live a decent life with the people they love around them. Capitalism can work if people reinvest in their workers and their welfare. Care if the bus stops are well lit. Care if the schools are safe. A book I read recently discussed how to go forward if corporations fail. Invest locally: community banks, farmer’s markets, and small businesses. Right now in my little burg we have amazing community support from First Citizens National Bank, Security Bank, Sonic, General Appliance, Independent Radiology, Ford Construction, Forcum Lannom, Lucky Liquor, and so many mom and pop businesses that are doing it very well. A big part of survival will be dependent on local farmers which have been crowded out by commercial farms. Animal husbandry does anyone remember that? Can we put the humaneness back in humanity?


Self. This is the busiest time of year for places to help you improve yourself. From gym memberships to diet fads and courses to help you be more confident and be a better version of yourself, you name it we have it. All of the ads and commercials you see want you to worry about yourself. You know when I worry about myself or what I need, I am a basket case. I don’t think we’re supposed to focus on self. What about me? What do I get out of this? This is such a sad place to be when you worry so much about your own little self. It is called selfishness. Have you ever met a selfish person? Everything is about yes you guessed it, them. They are so busy telling you of all of the ills of their life they don’t realize anything else is going on around them. It’s just their world and you’re just living in it. There have been simple iconic selfish characters in literature but the one that moved to me to this piece of writing was none other than Ebenezer Scrooge. Now there is a selfish guy. I really think old Ebenezer is a good analogy for corporations. Most Americans want just to be able to provide and work for their families welfare. Now that most women are in the workforce, I bet you there are several that would love to be able to live on one salary and be home with their children. This is not all women of course but the choice should be given. Our livelihood should not be dependent upon both parents working. It is not working for our culture. It is tearing apart the fabric of our families. People should not be looked down upon because they choose to stay home and care for their children. Women should be for women in whatever they choose. The rhetoric of the day has women at odds with each other. Remember those ads that tell you to be ultra independent: be self-driven and the master of your own destiny. We all have destinies but I don’t think those align with selfishness as ads will tell you. This huge wheel of existence has a lot of weak spokes. The people in the most powerful places drive it. Are they guiding it in our best interest as humans? Or has the power lulled them to sleep?

Continue reading “Political, Material, and Self”

Who are You?

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In my mind today I’m bufuzzled. I ran across this verse last week, “Who are you?” My brain wants to add o’s and sing it like the band The Who does. Just when you think you have it all figured out, you do or say something and think did that come from my mouth? It’s so tough to be the person that you are called to be.

This whole wonderment has had me shaken. Am I being the best person I can be? I’m at a crossroads. My mission is about to change. It’s been tough letting go of the work and person I have been in the past few years. With ALS, we have plateaus and valleys. I’m in the middle of a valley and figuring out the next season. The work will be new and rejuvenating. This work has been calling me for more than a year. I have no clue if I will be successful or not. I just have to try. Why? It is a calling from God. I have been blessed with a good mind, three degrees, and a broken body. It doesn’t matter folks. God will carry me and qualify me as I go.

It’s a New Year! Lots of resolutions. I remember every January grumbling at the YMCA because of the huge flux of people who were going to get in shape. I chuckle remembering that season of my life with my Y buds. I was a different person then with different jobs. Every season needs to be lived and cherished. There is truly knowledge to be learned and jobs to be done until our last breath.

I’ve been on a sabbatical of sorts. I’m powering up for the next Sal the I Know Who I Am Gal. Who am I? I’m first and foremost a Child of God. Read, listen, and pray today. Figure it out. Who are you?

Sarah Anderson Alley
Sal the Child of God Gal

Quotes of the Day:

They asked John the Baptist, “Who are you?”
He replied, ”I am the voice of one crying out in the desert,
‘Make straight the way of the Lord,’
as Isaiah the prophet said.”

First week of Advent


Even though I walk in the dark valley I fear no evil; for you are at my side. Psalm 23:4

In my mind today I am thinking about evil. Evil exists. Psalm 23 reminds us never to fear even in death. This is the darkest time of year here in my little burg. We get less sunshine than any other season. It just so happens that it is our first week of Advent. Happy New Liturgical Year!

In the darkest hours, we search for light. We have been promised a second coming. If Jesus Christ appeared in our little burg today, what we would he find? Parents stressing over the latest toys? Left behind elderly people at home and in facilities? Parents refunding charitable gifts so they can get another hit? People locked away in jails and prisons without a single Christmas greeting? Like John Lennon, I imagine all of the lonely people in my burg.

This little town is my playing field or basketball ball court now. Instead of touchdowns and jump shots, where can I bring the light of Advent? Where can the most light be spread to aleveate some despair and loneliness? If you attend church, look around. If you are working, look around. At the grocery store, look around. I’m sure you can find someone to give a gift card to or take a meal. What about volunteering to help out a single, working mom with providing food and coats for her kids? I know people who give all year long. Why? They get it. They have been enlightened by the Christ that lives within them. We should live our Advent all year long. I hope you find ways to bless others this season.
Happy Advent!
Sal the Christmas Loving Gal
Sarah Anderson Alley

Quotes of the Day:

“Be the Grinch that stole Christmas!”
Sal the Grinch Loving Gal

“I will honour Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year. I will live in the Past, the Present, and the Future. The Spirits of all Three shall strive within me. I will not shut out the lessons that they teach. Oh, tell me I may sponge away the writing on this stone!”
Ebenezer Scrooge

“For it is in giving that we receive.”
St. Francis of Assisi

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

Storms

40 days with Sal
It is day 30 students! Where do I begin? Since I last wrote I have had a liver biopsy, a baptismal reception for my littlest grandson, severe pain, a stay in the hospital, visiting with a dear friend contemplating what this life is all about, and a hibernation at home to try to recuperate. The horizon is also full of events that involved our last bird graduating from high school. I am so glad that God will let me see this. This is one thing I prayed for when I became so sick. I wanted to just be able to see her graduate had to get her next season in college. Everything else is just a bonus.
We Catholics are still celebrating Easter. Isn’t that great! I think it is. Today was the tragic reading of the first martyr, Stephen. How he rebuked the crowd and tried to get them to see but yet they rushed him and stoned him to death. It is so hard to take criticism. It is so hard to tell those you love that there is a better way. There is a proper code to treat each other in ways that you want to be treated. There is something bigger at work in our lives. We need to open our ears and eyes. Today the reflection started with “all of our days” and this is what we work for students. We want “all of our days” to be useful and to be something that will live eternally. Something that will continue to spring forth beauty into the world long after we are gone from the Earth. If I were to die tomorrow, I feel satisfied. I feel like Stephen did. I feel that I have run this race very well. Do you understand how good this feels? How peaceful? I want you to feel this, too. I am still here hallelujah to give what little is left of me. It is an honor to be able to do so. Students you are still here, too. There is still so much work to be done. I know we all have spring fever and school is about to be out for the summer but we need to use “all of our days” to love and serve each other especially our families. This is where the greatest love begins.
Sarah Anderson Alley
Sal the Using Every Breath Gal
Thank you everyone for the prayers that brought me through this storm.
Quote of the day:
Carpe diem