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

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.

He is Risen!

Wow! Easter is here! Yesterday was full of celebrating as a family. Each holiday when our family comes together it is a day of love and fellowship. I love these days. Easter has always been special day for our family. We have always gathered to share a meal and to have a big Easter egg hunt for the children. Each generation growing older and a new generation is being born. It warms my heart because students this is what life is about. It is about sharing time and meals with each other. Sharing the bond of kinship. Looking at the DNA as it flows into the future. It is so good to have a loving family. It is a treasure. It is a gift from above.
Last night we attended the Easter vigil. It was beautiful. We had many added to our flock. It felt so good to literally watch The light of Christ grow. The Alley pew is becoming crowded. For this I am so grateful. I was able to journey alongside with the neophytes and sponsor to special daughters: Carlin and Kerrie. Presenting them my voice quivered with happiness. Listening to my daughter sing in the choir loft helped the tears to flow. Tears of happiness. My cup continues to overflow more and more with each season passing.
There were so many happy moments yesterday I can’t tell you all of them. My mother holding my grandson and his reaction to her was miraculous. Our little George is still waking to his new world at 2 months old. When placed on my eighty-year-old mother’s lap, he came alive singing and talking to her. I thank God for moments like this. These are the little pieces of light He puts into my life. You see she has Alzheimer’s, but the spirit of God is stronger. It gives us these little twinkles. Watching the children squeal and hunt for Easter eggs was so endearing. To watch my nieces, nephews, and children lead their children along the bunny

as they once did themselves made me so, so happy. Let’s not forget about the great food either. My sweet son Ben helped me to enjoy the barbecue with all the trimmings. My grand girls proudly hanging with their Gram. They love me contraptions and all. These are just a few of the many, many blessings of the day.

Students I promised 40 days of blogs and as my mother taught me you have to follow through. Lent has ceased but Easter reigns. Our celebrations have just only begun. They will continue on in Easter fashion until the Ascension of our Lord which is 39 days after Easter. So back row, I will get the 40 days was Sal completed! Remember also Easter is to be celebrated every day of your life. Our homework today is to rejoice in this day that our Lord has made! Happy, Happy Easter!
Sal the Easter loving Gal
Sarah Anderson Alley
Quotes of the day:
 Do not abandon yourselves to despair. We are the Easter people and hallelujah is our song.
Saint Pope John Paul II
“No matter how scared or sinful I am, I am continually called. I look up at Jesus, and I tremble. This Man is much too Good for me. His promises are too Good. And I am much too bad. But still He points to His Wounds and says, “For you.” Still He holds out His Hand, wounded for my greed, and invites me in. To a simple life. To a life where He is my Love and I am His Beloved. He calls me, and I cannot resist forever. He is much too Good for me and Good to me, to the point of tears. But He created my heart for Him. And I cannot resist forever.”
Abbey Alley

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