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

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

Tutti Fruitti

IMG951555
Today I am thinking about fruit. Summers in the South give us lots of wonderful fruit: watermelon, cantaloupes, honeydew, peaches, grapes, strawberries, blackberries, and blueberries. Each summer my heart leaps when I see the roadside stands full of fresh produce. Besides fruit there are the garden treasures of tomatoes, peppers, okra, and several squash varieties. Summers of the South are so bountiful. It reminds me of the manna from heaven that God provided as the Hebrews fled through the desert. The treasures of this Earth are miracles from God. From manna to black-eyed peas, it is all a beautiful gift from God. Miraculous indeed.

Just as the Hebrews travel years through the desert surviving on manna, quail, and Holy water from stones, we get complacent with our daily miracles. We really take them for granted until the season has passed only then do we realize the sweet, savory tastes of fresh fruit and veggies are gone until next summer. The fresh produce of the summer becomes a memory in the winter. The roadside Farmers go back to their homes and farms to prepare for the winter and to plan it next year’s harvest. The miracles of their fields become a statistic compared to years prior. They note lessons learned and begin again taking time to reflect now their fields are fallow. We should do the same.

I know being a human is busy work, but we really ought take time to reflect and meditate on all the miracles in lives. We should fight to be in every miracle of every season God gives us. We should be thankful that he gives us manna every Sunday we attend church. Just like the Hebrews received double portions on Saturday so as to enjoy the Sabbath, going to meet with all our brothers and sisters at mass we are fed with the spirit and the body of Christ to go forth and enjoy the fruit of God’s bountifulness in our daily lives. Is the soil of your soul surrounded by vices that steal the good works? Is the soil of your soul too hard to fertilize and nourish good deeds? Is the soil of your soul tangled with deciect, fears, hurt, and hate so no seed of goodness can grow? We are all the fruit of God but do we have the strength to allow the ultimate gardener to cleanse the soil of our souls?
Take time to realize, reflect, and meditate on the miracles in your life.

Sarah Anderson Alley
Sal the Tutti Fruitti Gal

Quotes of the day:

A tree is known by its fruit; a man by his deeds. A good deed is never lost; he who sows courtesy reaps friendship, and he who plants kindness gathers love.
Saint Basil

The smallest seed of faith is better than the largest fruit of happiness.
Henry David Thoreau

Love is a fruit in season at all times, and within reach of every hand.
Saint Teresa of Calcutta aka Mother TeresaIMG951555

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

Are we burning down the House?

Students, I really don’t know where to begin. I have had such turmoil the past week that it was hard to focus on anything. Do you have weeks like that? I’m sure you do. Sometimes we call it getting on the pity pot. Life has just been happening at such a breakneck speed lately that I am totally exhausted. I just like the poem by Robert Frost still have miles to go before I sleep. I remember weeks and days like this when I was healthier. I remember how bone tired I was. With a body ravaged with atrophy still going a hundred and fifty miles an hour makes for a great disaster. So today I am licking my wounds and getting on with it. Remember how I have been urging you to find a church home? This week could have never been possible without my church family. From painting with the youth group and the baptism and reception of my grandchild, it just would not have happened. Now let’s throw in my daughter’s senior prom along with a liver biopsy and voila we have an amazing train wreck.
This morning I read an article about church attendance falling from 70% to 50% since 1999. I witness it with many of my friends. I grew up without a church family. I know what it’s like not to have people to be there and want the very best for you and your future. I ask myself what is happening? When I read articles and listen to NPR news lots of horrible things are happening. Within the last few weeks there have been several churches burned and bombed. The areas have been geographically spread all over the world. Just in California yesterday there was a synagogue in which I shooter tried to kill the rabbi. Why? Three of the major world religions have suffered in the last few weeks with tragedies. Is this a way to blame God for what is wrong with the world? Or is this away to attack God hoping to rid the world of God? In the face of adversity we need more than ever Church families. We need God.
This past Sunday was a Divine Mercy Sunday. It is our continuation celebrating Easter in the Catholic Church. My grandson was baptized yesterday. It was so beautiful. I was so peaceful and full of praise and thanksgiving. To watch your child follow in faith with their own children is a miracle to behold. As I watched our George be baptized, I drifted back remembering the baptisms of my children. My promises to God to raise them it a godly way with rules and gifts of the sacraments. It really does take a village. It is so nice to have a village in which your child can grow and be loved. Students, I think this is one reason the world has gone so terribly wrong. We need to get back to our churches to revamp our villages. The center of our village needs to be God. The rules God gives are truly not to harm us. Can we turn back to God? Sal the Optimistic Gal knows we can.
Sarah Anderson Alley
Sal the Weary Gal
Quotes of the day:
About Jesus Christ and the Church, I simply know they’re just one thing.
Joan of Arc
“For I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord. They are plans for good, to give you a future and a hope.” Jeremiah 29:11

Eucharist

We are in the middle of our octave of Easter. This is the eight days following Easter Sunday. It is celebrated in the Catholic Church. Today’s readings were about the crippled man by the beautiful gate. He had been crippled from birth. He sat there every day of his life begging for help. Peter and John were still shaking from the events of Passover. Jesus had just been crucified. They felt all was lost. The man by the gate begged them for an offering. They said the only thing we will give you is what we have and that is Faith in Jesus Christ our Risen Lord. They told him to rise and walk into the temple. He did. These stories intrigue me. There are many times that I want to just rise and walk but that is not part of my life plan and I have accepted it. Instead I zip around in my scoot. I trust that there is more.
Today made me think about my journey of faith. My whole life I went to several different churches with family and friends. I never quite felt as if I fit in anywhere. After my first child, I told my husband that we needed to find a church home. I had taken my child to several churches and Bible schools and after school Christian programs on Wednesdays but never quite felt at home. My husband told me he would go if I would just go to the Catholic church. He had fallen away from the Catholic Church and was attending a nondenominational Church before we met. When I went to the Catholic church for the first time I had a feeling of reverence and peace. It was different. There were  rituals and of course the kneeling and standing but there was just something about it that felt real. I remember communion and everyone streaming to the front to receive it. My husband and I could not receive communion yet because I was not Catholic and our marriage was not blessed by the church yet. It took a while for me to come into the Catholic faith. I went through the RCIA program and waited patiently for our marriage to be blessed and his other marriages to be absolved. It was a long journey. There were times when I didn’t think I would ever be able to join my Parish in the Lord’s Supper. After two years, I was able to come into the church. At one point I almost gave up. But I am so glad that I didn’t. You know they tell you that good things are worth waiting for and that’s exactly how I feel about my faith.
Have you ever been to a Catholic Church? It is very different in that we are focused on worship at the altar. We are focused on connecting with God not so much our neighbors. What you wear is not important. It is all about the Eucharist, communion. Many people who visit don’t understand how powerful the Eucharist is. If you are visiting a Catholic Church and not able to take communion you may feel slighted, but don’t. Observe and follow along in the back of the hymnal. It doesn’t matter which Catholic Church you attend each one follows the same readings and patterns. I also find comfort in this. No matter where I go in the world I can meet Jesus on Sunday at Mass.To Catholics it is a very sacred, serious ordeal. I read the Bible verses from Corinthians today that explains exactly why we do not take communion lightly. You have to be informed in our faith before you take the bread and wine. We Believe at every Mass we are sitting at the Last Supper and our offerings are turned into the body and blood of Christ. If you don’t believe this and take the communion the Bible verse says it is very dangerous. You are placing judgment on yourself. That is why only those who learn about the faith and become Catholic are to take communion. Something in my Heart told me to explain this to you students. Being a Catholic it’s not a Secret Club but more like a Sacred Club. This is the one big difference between Catholicism and Protestantism. Other than that Christians regardless of their membership are very similar. We really have so much in common and arguing the bits just makes the devil happy. Students, I hope you find a church home. It is such a good place to be and it should be a place of acceptance and love. If it isn’t, then keep searching.
Sal the Catholic Gal
Sarah Anderson Alley
Quotes of the day:
“When another church can offer me the body and blood of Christ each Sunday, I may consider attending. No other Church can do that so that is why I choose to be a Catholic.”
Rachel Abigail Alley aka Chuck
“the very last thing I want to do is to unsettle in the mind of any Christian, whatever his denomination, the concepts — for him traditional — by which he finds it profitable to represent to himself what is happening when he receives the bread and wine. I could wish that no definitions had ever been felt to be necessary; and, still more, that none had been allowed to make divisions between churches.”
C.S. Lewis
1 Corinthians 11:26-29
A]s often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the death of the Lord until he comes.
Therefore whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord unworthily will have to answer for the body and blood of the Lord. A person should examine himself, and so eat the bread and drink the cup. For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body, eats and drinks judgment on himself.

Triduum

Here we are students at Holy Week! Tomorrow we’ll begin our most sacred days of the year: The Triduum(Holy Thursday, Good Friday, and Black Saturday.) I really love how our church walks the path that was created with the death of our savior. Tomorrow as we go to church we will relive The Last Supper. We listen as disciples promise to be loyal but fall short. Good Friday is celebrated alongside all other Christians. It is a holiday celebrated around the world. It is celebrating the crucifixion. I can’t imagine being at the foot of the cross when Jesus was crucified. It always brings tears to my eyes. Saturday is our Easter vigil. It starts at sundown in the dark. We are searching for the light of Christ. We proceeded into the dark church faithfully awaiting the light of Christ. This is when baptisms take place and new parishioners are added to our number. Those who have come to the faith through the rites of Christian initiation. It is so beautiful.
This Lent we have worked so very hard to become better Christians. We want to be better people. We don’t want it to end with Easter. Guess what students? It doesn’t have to end. We are called to grow every year. We are to get stronger in our faith. This may be a beginning for some of you but I ask you to open yourself up to whatever God is calling you to do. It may be simple like overlooking a slight given it to you by someone who was supposed to be your friend. It may be that you are to be more serious about your faith and get involved with church life. Start each day with a prayer asking God to use you. I did this long ago and boy am I ever busy. Try it.
Students have you ever noticed how busy each spring is? We have a new group about to graduate from high school. We have a new group about to graduate from college. We have children signing up to begin kindergarten next fall. We have flowers blooming and trees surging to life. The warm days begging us to come outside and forget all the things that need tied up at the end of the school year. Just like the song, “I think to myself, What a Wonderful World” and I do. In spring there is so much living to do and we feel it in our bones. Thanks be to God for Spring, Easter, and New Life. Yes you have homework. Try to attend a Good Friday service and also an Easter service. Find your place and begin your work!
Sal the Triduum Loving Gal
Sarah Anderson Alley
Quotes of the day:
“Let every man and woman count himself immortal. Let him catch the revelation of Jesus in his resurrection. Let him say not merely, ‘Christ is risen,’ but ‘I shall rise.”
Phillips Brooks
“Our Lord has written the promise of resurrection, not in books alone, but in every leaf in springtime.”
Martin Luther
“Easter is very important to me. It’s a second chance.”
Reba McIntire