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/

Wrestling with God

In my mind today I am wrestling with God. I got up this morning and read my scriptures. I read about Jacob wrestling with someone but the person had extreme strength. They didn’t give up the fight. In the end the angel or God spoke to him and said from this day forward you will be Israel. I said I cannot imagine wrestling with God but then when I look at my life with ALS I am wrestling with God. Sometimes I wrestle with God and plead for more time to be with family and friends. Sometimes I wrestle with God crying out for him to use me to help this little city be a place of solace, a place of peace. Sometimes I wrestle with God and cry out for him to end it. I’m exhausted and tired and ready to go to my resting place. Some days are diamonds students and some days are dust. I’ve had quite a few dusty days. My body has been screaming out in pain but the pain of my physicality is not what cripples me. It is the pain in my heart that longs to be free. Free to be with God forever. Peace. Rest. Bliss. These are things that my heart craves. These are things that I know as a human I will never be totally free of while I am on this Earth. There is always someone that needs a loving touch, a helping hand, or a simple prayer. Busy. That’s what I am, busy. To look at the chair you may imagine that this girl is not busy. She is like the queen bee! I chuckle because at the library last week and the week before we talked about bees with the children. As they described the queen bee, I thought wow that is the way my family has to be for me. It doesn’t seem very fair. These are days that I cry out for God to rescue his faithful servant. There is so much to harvest for God in our lives. Just as scripture says the laborers are few. That is why I wrestle to stay here. I talk to God often and I know his plans are for the good of not just for me but for everyone around me. I have to stay the course even though some days I desperately want to wave a white flag. Students, do you wrestle with God? I know the back row thinks they can take him out! And you may think that I am a little crazy to think that anyone would try to wrestle with God but we do. We bargain constantly. We wrestle with God when he speaks to our hearts and we do not listen. If something goes wrong in our life, we wrestle with God. Students, what are you wrestling with today? If it is something you feel trapped with or is it someone who has hurt you, stop wrestling God. Ask him to take it. He will. This will be the only way I will surrender, into the arms of God. Have you figured out what you need? Cry out to God. Yes, it is a daily assignment!

Sarah Anderson Alley

Sal the Wrestling Gal

Quote of the Day

The harvest is abundant but the laborers are few; so ask the master of the harvest to send out laborers for his harvest. Matthew 9:37-38

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

Merry Christmas 2020

In my mind today I have been trying so hard to find the Joy. The pandemic has driven everyone into their tightest circles possible. In my family, the circle is huge. The times of huge gatherings was not to be had this year. From March until who knows, we will miss very many wonderful gatherings or take a chance. The fragility of our health makes it harder than ever because we want to be with all of our loved ones. If I sat in my wheelchair and dwelled on this everyday, I don’t think I would have any tears left. I believe I would cry myself empty. That is why I reach for my devotionals each day. I try to feed my mind with good words and directions before I begin each day. Some days you just have to cuss. I hear you back row; you are laughing. After losing it, I turn back and ask for forgiveness. The tensions inside of our homes is real. Even in our most tenuous moments there is joy! Don’t believe me back row? Let’s take it to trial. You be the judge!


Exhibit A
Last year I got a new wheelchair. It was to be driven by my head and neck. I didn’t realize that my neck muscles would begin to atrophy before I ever mastered it. So, it sat in the corner in my room broken after I had run into a car outside and broken the drive device. The new chair sat there for a year, and I continued to drive the old one. My left arm is now weakening and I am barely able to drive with a joystick but I was still able to tootle around especially outside. Next, the batteries were running out on the old wheelchair that I was using and I was forced to contact the wheelchair people. They came to get the wheelchair and put many adaptations on it for me. After three more with months of waiting, it arrived! I was so excited to drive again without worrying about the battery dying. My dogs were getting seriously mad at me because I could not roll with them. The eye gaze system was a bit jerky but I thought hey I can do this. I did tootle a bit and then I was waiting for a day to go outside and practice. Driving with your eyes inside takes a lot of skill especially whenever you have an s curve on the way into the bedroom. Don’t you remember whenever you were learning to drive? They take you to big parking lots and let you practice. I was bound and determined to learn to drive this wheelchair. My son and I headed outside. I began to drive it down the ramp but whenever I got out of the garage it died. It would not work. It kept saying no eyes detected! We sat out there for 2 hours trying to figure out why the wheelchair would not work. It had to be me or some wire that wasn’t attached correctly. I did hit a few doors and walls in the house. Whenever we gave up and came in, it worked in the house. I had suggested that maybe the sunlight was interfering with it. So I called the technology people that created the eye gaze and found out that I was given the cheapest version available. Insurance did not think it was necessary for me to be outside driving on my own. Folks, I am not dead yet. As long as I am breathing, I want to go outside it doesn’t matter if it is 0° or 110°. This girl loves outside. It’s where I find most of my joy. It is where God meets me. After several meltdowns and conversations with insurance and technology people I believe they have approved the eye gaze that works outside as well as inside. What I had discovered was unless you have an advocate you are your own. Where is the joy? The joy was I was able to advocate for myself. The joy was now I know even more how important it is to donate to the ALS chapter because they are huge advocates of getting us what we need. The virtual race that we had this year made it possible to give a nice donation to the ALS chapter. Joy abounds.  I can call at any time and they are able and willing to help me live with ALS. 
Verdict: Help those who have no advocate. I guarantee you you will find joy!


Exhibit B
If you know me, You know I am an absolute nut for Christmas! I always have been. Did I always get everything I wanted for Christmas as a child? Never. But that’s okay. It was about the songs and the feeling that Christmas gives that was always what I loved. Let us not forget the awesome claymation cartoons. I was born at the right time. I still torture my children to this day and grandchildren with watching those antique shows together. I just drive my family crazy. Lists. I am list maker. Even if I cannot physically write anymore, I make lists in my head and occasionally voice to text them like I am now. I shoot those list out to my poor children. The ones that are trapped with me in this house. That’s how I think they feel sometimes! They then begin to try to help. This year the list was completely ignored. The kids started decorating without any attention given to the list. So cue the meltdown. I asked them what were they doing? Why were they dragging out all this stuff but I actually said junk? I asked desperately, “Did you even read the list?” The list was way simpler than what was going on. They were dragging out things I had not seen in years. The house was a wreck. I was a wreck. They were frazzled. It was not a beautiful Christmas scene from a Hallmark movie at all. After we all got over it (10 days later) the decorating began. They tried to back up and punt. I had only planned on one tree this year. Yes, I know it’s horrible that I have more than one tree and I am stuck in a wheelchair and I still want those trees up. The list that I had given them explicitly said one tree. I wanted the Nativity tree because that is what this time of year is really all about anyway. It was like one of those quizzes your teacher gives you and then when you get to the end it says put your name at the top and you will get a 100. Don’t worry about answering the questions. If that had been done, lots less crying and gnashing of teeth would have happened while decorating. The whole house almost came down whenever they found out I had nixed the memory tree. Needless to say, decorating is done and there are three trees up. The tree that means the most to my children is the one that is full of memories. Note to self! It is the one that has traveled with us through our lives together. It has all sorts of ornaments from friends and school crafts. It carries with it people and friends who are no longer with us. The nativity tree used to be in the foyer. The memory tree was always in the living room. It had lived with us. It was the staple tree from the very beginning. This year I flipped them. After all of the dust settled, my sweet husband who never says anything says, “I can’t believe you picked the Nativity tree. Didn’t you realize the children would be upset? The memory tree is also my favorite. It should be in the living room.” 
Verdict: Don’t assume that others love the cherish same things that you do even if you live in the same household. Be considerate of their time and feelings regardless if there is a list. My list caused so much grief and wasted so much time. I should have just let them decorate the way they wanted. It will be theirs to do one day anyway. After one nasty exchange, I suddenly realized I was being over zealous with the trappings of Christmas. I felt just like the Grinch before he had an epiphany. It really only matters that we are here and we will be able to make more memories God willing. That’s it. You don’t need anything: a tree, gifts, or extravagance of any kind to find the Joy of Christmas.


Bed sores (another gift from being in a wheelchair that is stationary,) uti infections, and beyond and I could never forget to mention the near death experiences of choking. Yes we have been through a lot of falling down with our health lately. The pandemic makes it so much harder to look at the bright side of things. If this is how you feel, it is time to flip the script. You need to look around yourself and see all of those blessings. Look around and find people who need blessings. Now that you have opened your eyes, you need to get busy. You have so many gifts of joy to unwrap this advent. Here are some of the gifts I have received: fresh eggs from a friend who has a farm each Saturday delivered straight to my mailbox or my garage, surprise drop offs of pumpkin bread and pies, a dear friend who is very sick made the dressing for my Christmas meal that tastes so much like my mother’s, my children trying to make me want to live longer, my grandson who has ripped every vehicle off of every tree with a few other ornaments, a window visit from my grand girls that I have not seen in months, and beautiful Christmas cards from friends that I never knew I would be able to hear from again. These are just a few of the gifts from people who just love us. That is complete Joy. God speaks to us every single day not just Christmas. He is in the little birds that sit by my window and pick berries. He is in the squirrels that skitter and fight and play around my window everyday. He is in the playful dogs that come to my window wanting to know why I am not out there with them. He is in my children that desperately try to make everything okay. He is in the sweet husband that guards his little family so well even though he himself has lost so much. He is in the bulbs that I saved and are now beginning to sprout in my window. Every message he gives me is of LOVE and a promise of resurrection. I see things sometimes that I know are just for me from God. Students there is Joy whether we open our eyes to see it or not. What are you waiting for? Find your joy!


Merry Christmas!
Sarah Anderson Alley
Sal the ALS Gal


Quotes for the Season:
“Cover them,” he says. “I do not wish to see them.” Ebenezer Scrooge
“Bring them here,” He says. “I wish to see them.” Jesus Christ
Do you see the difference? Scrooge did not want to see the poor of the world. He did not want to feel responsible or guilty or worse not to feel anything. To you much that is given… always remember that. Jesus said bring those to me who are on the fringes of life. 


Religion that is pure and undefiled before God the Father is this:  to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world. James 1:27 
 

…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.”

Cookie

In my mind today, I have been working through losing one of my favorite friends to heaven and trying to focus on making this year’s race a success. My friend was the reason I took over this race. He has some very big shoes to fill on our committee. In order to honor my friend, I wanted to explain how it all came to be.
After being forced into retirement because of my weakened physical abilities, I noticed there were advocates that did a yearly walk for ALS. I thought this was so cool and the way I could try to find a way to be useful. Every year in our little West Tennessee town we have always had race on the 3rd Saturday of October. It was coming up on the 26th annual Mission March. I called my friend who had always run in it as I had in the past and asked how could I do a walk in conjunction with the Mission March to help support ALS research and help our little community in some way. To give back to the community that had always loved me through this horrible disease that was my goal. When I called Bart, I asked him if we could do a simple walk along with the Mission March event. He sadly told me that the event had been canceled. He then told me that he had run the race every single year and was very sad it was going to be let go. I said, “I’ll be on the committee if you want to try to do something with it.” He replied, ” Be on the committee? You are the committee!” And so out of that conversation, became the Autumn March for ALS. 
We had big dreams for the race. Each year we wanted to build on the next. As the race began to gain steam, we had the idea of all kids running free. Especially the youngest of our community. We understood the benefits for children to run. Children need exercise, healthy competition, and camaraderie. The shirts would be free for these students. The shirts are also a gift from us to our kids in this area and wherever else they may land. The shirts can be used as a spirit shirt for school and it could also be used underneath polo shirts that are mandated by our systems. We understood that many kids have needs that can’t always be met. This was just another little way we could help out the least of ours. Do we lose money when we do this? It depends on what you are talking about. Yes we lose part of our bottom dollar but we also gain so much by way of spreading that light and love to others which is priceless. We wanted the race to inspire students to be healthy, to become teammates, and to feel good about themselves. We had a vision that schools all around the area and eventually around the country could join in our fight for a cure and a brighter future. We always hoped that the children would outnumber the adults. We both thought of Spain and how the running of the bulls would be so cool if the bulls were children running down our streets. I am not going to give up. I know Bart would not want me to ever give up. 
Another wonderful thing that blossomed out of the race was support for local scholarships to local seniors. This money that we raise helps those students start a chapter in college. Each year we hope to give more and more scholarships. This year we were able to give four $1,000 scholarships. We call these scholarships The Autumn March “Whatever it Takes Scholarship” was added to our efforts in order to honor long time teacher and admistrator Robert Cupples and Sarah Alley. All of our legacies should be for the future and that is our kids. These scholarships help leave a legacy to share the light in our little corners of the world. The only thing required is to write an essay about how you will be a light in the world after college or trade school and give it to your guidance counselor. 
The people in your neighborhood who do the jobs needed and do those while shedding light to all the dark places are needed now more than ever. Another way that we try to help others is through local donations to non-profit organizations. We were able to give Matthew 25:40 a gift of money during a very trying financial year to ensure the least got Christmas presents and other needs covered. We are all on the same team.
Mr. Bart worked tirelessly up to the very end. He continued to encourage me and now I encourage you. If you can donate to help sponsor students to run and to receive a shirt free, please donate. It doesn’t matter if it’s $5 or $100. Just help us be the good that’s what Bart would want. As many know, Mr Bart was one of the best cookie bakers and sweet treat makers of all time! Everyone coveted those was wonderful cookies and caramels. It was a tradition that he started with his kids and they would deliver those to people around them especially the elderly and during the holidays. He was a grandfather and his grandchildren called him Cookie. You and I both know why. He’d never visited without sharing those wonderful cookies. Please help support us during this crazy year of virtual everything! If you are at school, please have groups of kids sign up and walk or run to show their support for Mr Bart, a cure, or a brighter tomorrow. Make posters and celebrate! You could do all of the above by signing up and posting your accomplishments! As usual we will have a trophy for the school with the largest number of students to run. We then deliver the trophy and cookies to the winners! Last years winner was Fifth Consolidated Elementary. The beauty is it could all be done at your leisure. I’m hoping that all runs will be completed by October 31st and posted to our websites to share the love! 
Sarah Anderson AlleySal the Autumn March Gal
Quotes of the day: Have courage…….Be kind…….Eat cookies!!The secret ingredient is always…….kindness. All you need is love and cookies!!Bake the world a better place. Peace, Love, & Cookies Tracy Cupples https://runsignup.com/Race/TN/Dyersburg/AutumnMarchforALSVirtual

52-12-95-17-26-80


In my mind lately, I’ve been on a respite. The Autumn March for ALS consumes me for about four months and then poof! We are finished and amazed at how everything fell together. The last words I spoke to my committee the night before the race was, “Whom shall we fear?” God is always for us. Really He is.

In my respite, my small world saw many start their next chapter. I was riddled with grief and disbelief. Why do some get 95 years while others only get 12 years? To suddenly leave your precious wife, children, and grandchildren at 52 short years is so unfair. God, I know you hear me. I understand that we all are born and we all have to die. That magic exit number is what baffles me. To see old friends and classmates leave us behind too soon never ceases to hurt. There will always be holes in our hearts when people we love die.

80 and 95 are those blessed with longevity. They are rewarded with many seasons of love and memories. They have also lived through so many heartbreaks and hearts riddled with holes. How? They are worn and weary from the journey. They anticipate their homecoming. They begin talking of another home. They are prepared. I thank God for those who lived and have shown us how to trudge through the losses in this life and to embrace our fellowmen and women with the amazing love that is completely sacrificial. Sharing in their grief being the loving hands of Christ is what you and I are called to do.

12, 26, and 17 are oh so hard. Parents never, never, NEVER, want to outlive a child. My sweet mother of 80 has always told us the only thing she has been really strict about in her prayers to God is for her to go before us. When a child no matter the age leaves this Earth, parents hearts are obliterated. It’s more than holes. Marriages fail, parents continuingly ask why, and parents cry and beg for this to all be a bad dream. We have to learn to trust that God has a plan. We have to fight to be closer to something bigger, stronger than we are. We have to fight through our days of “firsts.” First Thanksgiving without our child and then as time passes, we continue to ask what if our son or daughter had lived. Never forgotten. NEVER.

Death is a part of this life. Grief is a part of this life. But also true, sacrificial love is what carries us in these days of death: a kind note, a card, a hug, attending the service, unexpected meals brought by, yards being mowed, and a call. We see all of the beauty of that life through the people they touched. We hear stories by those that love us and our loved one. That gives us strength to keep going until the bell tolls for us. I read somewhere once that people who lose loved ones to death would rather you speak of their loved one instead of tip-toing around it. It spurs those memories and let’s people know their loved ones are not forgotten. Never Forgotten.

I always come back to Mary, the mother of Jesus. Losing a child in this world is an unfair tradegy for so many of us. The Son of Mary brought hope into this world. She didn’t understand either. She did what she could for her precious boy: took Him down from the cross, washed him, and prepared His body for His last journey. Like us, she continued to push on to live and find an explanation. The most wonderful example she gave us was she always trusted God’s plan. Let His will, not mine be done. She never took her eyes off of God and the promise her son would live. He was truly the boy who lived. After all is said and done in this life, let His will be done. Know there is more, much more. Your sons, daughters, mothers, fathers, grandparents, grandchildren, aunts, uncles, cousins, and friends will all face death. What kind of example will you be for them? Were you that light of hope on their dark day? Helping them keep their eyes toward heaven. If you didn’t, there is still time. Death is not the end. Never.

Sarah Anderson Alley
Sal the Help us God Gal

Quotes of the Day:

“The Son who lived paid the price for ALL to be in eternity.”

“Do the good in the world for those who are gone. Carry one of their torches. There is no better way to feel them walk in death beside you.”
Sal the People Loving Gal

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

Won’t You Be My Neighbor?

Won’t You Be My Neighbor?

“Lord, help me overcome my biases. I want to be able to see you in every person I meet.”

As I read my devotional this morning, I smiled thinking of the message. I remembered as a child watching the PBS program Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood and singing along. Decades later I would watch the show with my children. Of my children, Ian liked it the most. I chuckle when I visit that time in my mind. I still hear him saying as a toddler, “Momma, I want to play the piano (he pronounced it pee-an-do with all long vowels of course) like Mr. Rogers when I grow up.” I thank God for these precious memories of my children. I thank God for those messages that helped shape me as a child.

After reading the parable of the Good Samaritan, I realized the relevance of it in our modern lives. Today, I think we can substitute Samaritan and Jew for many disgruntled “neighbors.” Here’s the shortlist: Republican vs. Democrat, Muslim vs. Christianity, Jew vs. Muslim, Pro-life vs. ProChoice, Gay vs. Straight, Catholic vs. Protestant, & Black vs. White. Whew! I could add more but you get the idea. Would you care for your neighbor like the Samaritan did? Would you use your arms to hold this dying adversary? Could you open your mouth to give a kind word? How about untying your purse strings to give a meal to a starving foe? Use your body to shield them from hateful slurs and threats? Or do we continue to be consumed by hate believing that they deserve to be chastised and hurt? See. We are all called to be a “Good Samaritan.” I hear my back row students squirming in their seats. It is very hard to love those who hate and persecute you.

In this present time our lives are so influenced with confusing messages like “If it feels good, do it” or “It’s all about me #YOLO.” It’s true we only have one earthly life to live. Sadly, those who choose to act morally are often chided in our culture for their weaknesses. They don’t fit in to the popular social circles. After reading the scriptures about the parable of the Good Samaritan, I felt nudged to implore you to find a way to help that wounded person on your life path. We all have at least one person we can choose to help. Imagine if we all encouraged one person a day for a year. Wow! Today, seek out a neighbor to love and serve. Let’s make the most of this beautiful day!

Sarah Anderson Alley
Sal the Neighbor Loving Gal

Quotes of the Day by Mr. Rogers:

“When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, “Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.”

“Love isn’t a state of perfect caring. It is an active noun like “struggle.” To love someone is to strive to accept that person exactly the way he or she is, right here and now.”

“If you could only sense how important you are to the lives of those you meet; how important you can be to the people you may never even dream of.”

“There is something of yourself that you leave at every meeting with another person.”

“We live in a world in which we need to share responsibility. It’s easy to say “It’s not my child, not my community, not my world, not my problem.”

“Then there are those who see the need and respond. I consider those people my heroes.”

Aches and Pains

Morning, noon, and night I cry out in my distress, and the Lord hears my voice. —Psalm 55: 17 (NLT)

Today is one of my pity party days. My body is crying out in distress. I think every inch of me has an ache. The super, quick road trip to Vanderbilt in Nashville and back is the worst. My body is breaking down and I have to face it. By the time I arrive home, I’m on the brink of a mental breakdown, sore, and dehydrated. No fun. So, I cry out in distress and He hears me.

Today is the Assumption of Mary on the Catholic calendar. The short version is that Catholics and some other denominations believe that Mary was welcomed in to heaven upon the end of her earthly life. If anyone should get a “fast pass” to heaven, it should definitely be Mary. We all have to die to our earthly life. Reading about this today made me long for heaven. It made me long for an end of my earthly distress. Then I remember I’m not quite finished regardless of my aches and pains. So I put it on God’s shoulders and put on my big girl dipe. I begin to pray for those who just lost their daughter in a tragic car accident and remember her grieving friends. I pray for a father who left for heaven too soon leaving behind his daughters and parents. I pray for a friend who lost her beloved father. I look around and realize my earthly chapter is far from over. I need to cry out and move forward with the gift of life I still have. There is so much left to do. Will you join me?

Sarah Anderson Alley
Sal the Aches and Pains Gal

Dedicated to Cowboy, Alaina, and Clint who started their next chapter and for the hearts of those left here.

“The pain of parting is nothing to the joy of meeting again.”
Charles Dickens