Broken

Sal with one of her fav students
In my mind today I am thinking about brokenness. Students, today is a hard lesson for me. I’m struggling to type with my eyes. My arms and hands are now broken. I have been so angry and sad because I can’t type with ease. I am broken. This reflection is not about me. It is about how so many things and people in my life path are broken and I feel so helpless because I want to fix them. That is what healthy Sal would do. I’m ashamed that my prayers lately have been for eternal peace. I know where I will be whole again but yet I’m still here. Writing is my only physical way left to teach. So yes back row, the script is flipped. I’m the one with all the homework and I hate it.
Today’s lesson : brokeness. How many like math? That is what I thought, only the front row. When you get the wrong answer you start over again. Why is this so hard for us? So many things in our human existence are broken : families, schools, health care, the government, our morality, and our churches. You know at the center of all of this chaos lies the simple solution of putting the missing love back in our family units. I don’t speak from a perspective of having come from a perfect family but from a broken one. As I lay here typing through teary eyes, I want my students to have a brighter and better future. I want you to heed this valuable lesson. The broken home that reared Sal had a strong God feariing woman, but that couldn’t save all of us from the evils of addiction. It hurts to watch your sibling kill themselves slowly. It hurts even more when nothing you do can repair their hearts. So many families have at least one broken child. As a teacher I witnessed so many broken children my heart literally ached daily. The horrible reality is the number of these children are growing more rapidly than children with a sound, stable family structure. Broken.

With all problems there are solutions. The biggest problem is that we are all human. In our world today we see no need for God. We are the master of our lives. We can Google anything. We have all become Einsteins. If it feels good do it. Forget about consequences. Hey it’s our life and leave us be. And see how well it is working? That’s sarcasm students. Can we start over? Can we put God in the center of everything we do? If every action, every thought, and every word is done with God in our minds and hearts then brokeness can be healed. Can we admit that we need help? We are not gods, but we desperately need the order, structure, and love of God. It’s not hocus-pocus or stuff and nonsense. From my make shift podium, I ask you to try. Yes back row, it’s probably the most crucial homework assignment I’ve ever given. I’ll continue to pray for all of you until my last breath.

Sarah Anderson Alley

Sal the Broken Gal

 

Peace in 2019

IMG_6001Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. —John 14: 27

In my mind today, I’m thinking of the new year and all it will hold. I want it to hold peace for us all. Peace in our homes. Peace for the sick and elderly. Peace for the neglected children. Peace.

The Christmas season is a celebration of good will toward all. It’s a time to rejoice of a savior that came to give us the peace we all crave. It is the best gift if only we could let it grow. I know we can.

I read a quote on a friend’s social media page that said “Be the things you loved most about the people that are gone.” This made me stop and think. There are so many that have gone and it’s simply part of life, dying. The more I thought, I realized we do have those things in our DNA and they are pumped through our hearts. They are expressed in our actions. They are still here. We just need to never forget and nurture them. Guess what? They give peace to us and peace to others.

I haven’t written in a while because my arms are betraying me. Three years ago I met a young man of 73 years online. He and I shared our ups and downs with ALS. He lived in the Netherlands. We were able to face time each other. He told me when his hands and arms became paralyzed, he was finished. He couldn’t bear to burden his beloved wife any longer. He chose to have an assisted death. It’s been three years since we said goodbye. I still have his last Christmas gift wrapped and in my pantry. I didn’t get it mailed. It’s there to remind me of my friend. The good that was in him will live on through those he loved. I know many will judge his last choice, but waiting for peace in a body physically silenced by ALS is something I wish on no one.

Students let’s be harbingers of Peace in the new year. It’s been here all along. Just let it flow from your actions and words. Be the good. Where should you start? A wise woman once said begin with your family. All we need to do is literally “Give Peace a Chance.”

Sarah Anderson Alley
Sal the Peace Spreading Gal
If you want to change the world, go home and love your family.

Life is a song, sing it. Life is a struggle, accept it.

There is no key to happiness; the door is always open.

Smile at each other. Smile at your wife, smile at your husband, smile at your children, smile at each other – it doesn’t matter who it is – and that will help to grow up in greater love for each other.

Mother Teresa

Glimpse

 

Glimpse
Zacchaeus. . . was seeking to see who Jesus was. (Luke 19:2, 3)

In my mind, I’ve been troubled. I, Sal the Sinful Gal, have sinned in what I’ve done and what I failed to do. Who wouldn’t choose to laugh and party with the sinners instead of moping around crying with the Saints, right? Yes back row close your mouths, Sal is not a Saint. I have these horrible thoughts. I have times when I talk and should keep my big mouth shut. I have times when I should speak but can’t because I don’t want to be the person who points the finger at sinful behaviors. This last one bothers me the most.

At the R.C.I.A. Class last Monday night, we had a small class because of the holiday week. We discussed intimate matters. I voiced my non-abilities to be a finger pointer to sins I see. My heart always goes back to the commandment “Love your neighbor as you love yourself.” This speaks to me of unconditional love. Unconditional love accepts sinners with open arms. It does not judge or boast. I can’t run around pointing out sins when I’m just a lowly sinner myself. I expressed my grief and listened to life lessons from our priest still feeling unrest and turmoil in my heart. My daughter and I talked late into the night discussing our sinful dilemmas. After she went up to bed, I lay awake pondering an answer.

The next morning, I opened my studies and this was the meditation verse of the day: Zacchaeus. . . was seeking to see who Jesus was. (Luke 19:2, 3) I read the readings and the gospels. I read about Dorothy Day and Thomas Merton. Let’s not forget Zacchaeus the dastardly tax collector that climbed a sycamore just to get a glimpse of Jesus. Then I read a short bio on Leo Tolstoy, a famous Russian author. That’s right front row. He wrote War and Peace and Anna Karenina. His writings inspired Gandhi. Back row you better know who Gandhi is. Tolstoy had the same struggle with Christianity as I. The Sermon on the Mount and the law of love haunted him as well. I couldn’t believe this author had the same stirrings in his heart. Toward the end of his life things didn’t fare well for Leo; he was excommunicated from the church. However, so much was gained from his loss. He taught us to continue to seek that glimpse of Jesus in this world. Always seek.

Zacchaeus was seeking, too. He saw Jesus and Jesus saw him. He immediately felt that stir and turmoil in his heart. He had a change of heart, made reparations to those he cheated and abused, and tried to emulate what he saw, Jesus. The lightbulb went on for Sal the Sinful Gal. The “Ah-ha” moment just about knocked me out of my scoot. I’m not to be a finger-pointer but I’m to be a glimpse of Jesus. This was the lesson all along. If sinners see us acting with a heart of Christ there doesn’t have to be any finger pointing. Whew! I can do that. I’m called to love and that’s a piece of cake for me. I’m Sal the Love Everybody Gal. After Abbey woke up and did her readings, she text me: “Dorothy day is popping off today!!! Just what we talked about last night….” I smiled and text back: “And Thomas Merton! I wigged out when I read, too” How can you be a glimpse?

Sarah Anderson Alley
Sal the Be Like Jesus Gal

Quotes of the Day:
Leo Tolstoy
His last words were, “To seek, always to seek.”
“If a person knows that he will die in a half hour, he certainly will not bother doing trivial, stupid, or, especially, bad things during this half hour. Perhaps you have half a century before you die—what makes it any different from a half hour?”—Leo Tolstoy

“The greatest challenge of the day is: how to bring about a revolution of the heart, a revolution which has to start with each one of us?”

Dorothy Day

Crosses

Whew! Crosses!

“Do not worry about . . . what you are to say” (Luke 12:11).

In my mind lately, I’ve wanted to write and to share but I haven’t found the words, time, or energy. I’m still here fighting to empty myself for what really matters. Well, students I’m am definitely running on empty and yes I’m singing Jackson Browne as I peck this out. I’m hopping off of the pity party wagon today and feel like my tank is being restored. Whew! The Holy Spirit (We call it the HS at my house.) has been nudging me to share words so here I go.

Crosses. I love them. Unconsciously I have filled my home with them. The symbolism of them brings me joy. Studying and reflecting lately the meaning and connection of crosses in my life has taken on a whole new meaning.

Crosses are responsibilities and events in our lives. They are heavy and burdensome. They do not discriminate according to race, economic status, or social status. They come in all shapes and sizes. They have many names: death, cancer, strokes, ALS, Alzheimer’s, bankruptcy, homelessness, Autism, Parkinson’s, debt, mental illness, unemployment, estranged family members, addictions, and plain ole loneliness barely scrape the many types of crosses we bear on our earthly journey. Makes you want to wave the white flag doesn’t it? I hear the back row saying, “Amen! It’s too tough. Let’s stop this lesson and just have recess every day!” Calm down. Breathe. Adjust that cross on your back and carry it with all your strength. Embrace it. Settle down back row and quit making the Cuckoo gesture. I’m not crazy. Your cross-training (I love this pun!) is to strengthen you, embellish you, and transform you into the vessel needed to complete your purpose for the greater good. It is.

Those crosses teach you patience. They teach you humility. They connect you with the suffering of Christ. They are unexplainable mercies of God that when the cross is lifted, Grace engulfs you. You get 20/20 vision and the lightbulb becomes blinding showing you the abundance of fruits from your labor.

Still don’t believe me? Think of a horrible time in your life. If you’re honest with yourself, you found a rainbow after the storm. You learned to appreciate something you overlooked. You learned to control your tongue. You quit blaming others for your shortcomings. You had the courage to right a wrong and say, “Forgive me. I’m so sorry.” You learned to pray instead of lashing out on social media or try to numb yourself with alcohol or drugs. I saw your jaws drop open. You get it. 😀

Students, you have a pop quiz today. No, I don’t love to torture you; I just love you. I want to fill your tank. Today, identify a cross you are carrying. Whatever it is, big or small, whisper, “God, I accept this cross for you. Help me. Use it for YOUR plan, not mine. I’m weary and tired. Give me strength. Thank you for hearing me and helping me bring joy into my valleys. Amen.”
Sarah Anderson Alley
Sal the Cross-bearing Gal

Quote of the Day:
“True teachers use themselves as bridges over which they invite their students to cross; then, having facilitated their crossing, joyfully collapse, encouraging them to create bridges of their own.”
Nikos Kazantzakis

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.”

Turn, Turn, Turn

A time to love, and a time to hate. (Ecclesiastes 3:8)

 

In my mind today, I’m mulling over my readings. I was excited to read Ecclesiastes today. I hear the song “Turn, Turn, Turn” and smile. These verses are so poetic. I love anything linguistic: words, rhymes, puns, or sentence structure. It makes my brain hum. I drive my family crazy with my nonsensical outbursts as I turn everything into a show tunes sing-a-long.

Hate is such a strong word. As I’ve grown, I’ve mellowed. I don’t have the heart to hate anymore. People that is. I truly see and know we are all part of something big and are created for good. Each life has a purpose.

I admit it. There are things I hate. I hate when I find out former students have died too soon. I hate cancer, ALS/MND, Alzheimer’s, mental illnesses, strokes, and freak, fatal accidents. I hate addictions. I hate parental neglect. I hate prejudice. I hate that some people feel unloved. I hate that we value things over human life. I hate that we are so easy to judge and resent others. I hate that my hands are too weak to Blog like I used to Blog. I hate that my body is betraying me. I hate being sick. It’s true. There is a time to hate.

One of the last books we read at our local bookclub, “Turn the Page,” was The Light Between Oceans by M.L. Stedman. One of the characters in the novel was hated by the village because of his German heritage. The village had lost many sons at the hands of the Germans during WWI. He was a simple young man, a baker. Amid the slurs and taunting, he smiled. His wife asked him, “How can you forgive and be so happy?” He told her, “I can forgive and forget… it is so much less exhausting. You only have to forgive once. To resent, you have to do it all day, every day. You have to keep remembering all the bad things.” When this quote was used to end our discussion all of us had an “aha” moment. So there are also times to forgive and forget. I think this is so hard for us as humans. We cling to our anger and resentment like it’s a gem. Don’t. Life is too short; it’s but a breath on the timeline of time. Make your breath a refreshing one. One that breathes life into everyone on your life path. Let it fill the air with sounds of love and affirmations. Let it sing praise. “Turn, Turn, Turn” your hate into love.
Sarah Anderson Alley
Sal the Things I Hate Gal

Quotes of the Day:

Right and wrong can be like bloody snakes: so tangled that you can’t tell which is which until you’ve shot them both, and then it’s too late.
M. L. Stedman – The Light Between Oceans

To have any kind of a future you’ve got to give up hope of ever changing your past
M. L. Stedman – The Light Between Oceans

We always have a choice. All of us
M. L. Stedman – The Light Between Oceans

Intercessors

Intercessors

They approached Jesus and strongly urged him to come. (Luke 7:4)

Many times I ponder why I’m still here. My mother’s sister began falling at age 38. We said goodbye to her at the age of 43. Doctors had no clue why she wasting away so fast. At her death, the diagnosis was not clear. She died of pneumonia but ALS had ravished her body. She couldn’t stand, walk, use her arms, or cough on her own. So much like me. She never lost her ability to talk or swallow. Her fragile body wore out and pneumonia took her away from her only son and new grandson. This thought always makes me cry. Our lives eerily parallel. As I write today, I daydream of the grandson to come this February.

Today, I read about the Roman soldier who sought out Jesus. His slave was sick. He believed he would be healed. Faith of friends coupled with prayer is a dynamic force. “Go your faith has saved your friend.” This spoke to me and each time I venture out in my scoot I feel the faith of my family and friends save me. They bless me with more earthly time. I hear the whisper of jobs I still have to do. I see people who need loved. Children that need taught about faith, prayer, and friendship. Then I feel the strength to roll on and give more despite the limitations of my physical body. God hears my prayers, too. He puts people in my life to help accomplish my acts of love and sacrifice. They help me share love in the world.

So, I’m still here almost a half a century old. In a way, it’s a miracle. God working through doctors, my family, and my friends who rally around Sal the ALS Gal. I’m so humbled by every prayer, smile, and touch given to me as I embrace my cross and zip forward to the next job whispered to me each morning as I pray. Today students, pray for your family and friends. There really is an energy that resonates with those you pray for and He hears you. Your faithful petitions are needed. Be a faithful, prayerful friend. Yes, that’s your homework. Back row, WAKE UP! Be an Intercessor.

Sarah Anderson Alley
Sal the Feeling the Prayers Gal

Quotes of the Day:

“We are not called to be successful; we are called to be faithful.”
Mother Teresa
St. Teresa of Calcutta

“Prayer is the key of the morning and the bolt of the evening.”
Gandhi

“In prayer it is better to have a heart without words than words without a heart.”
Gandhi