First week of Advent


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

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

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

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

Quotes of the Day:

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

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

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

Take Nothing for the Journey


Take nothing for the journey. Luke 9:3
I read these words over in my mind this morning. Each day I wake I lose something to ALS. It’s not until I try to use a muscle that I realize the disease has creeped further into my neurological system taking something else. My life sounds like a sci-fi movie. Ironically, it looks like it, too. I’m not complaining; I’m rejoicing. The more of ourselves and possessions we leave behind, the closer we are to our next adventure. Humans can’t comprehend needing nothing. When you realize what is valuable usually it’s time to go be with your creator. The light bulb comes on and your gone. If you are part of the ones that get what life is all about, you are a special person. It’s a gift.
Take nothing and give all. The things you give are not burdensome or hard to carry: time and attention. They are sacrificial. They are precious. When they are well spent, the memories, feelings, smells, and warmth will stay with you your entire life. They bridge you to the next world. They feed you soul for the journey. I know so many wonderful people who are blessed to do this through their vocations. In my first season, I was blessed to be able to serve others as a teacher. Whether you are a nurse, waitress, Wal-Mart greeter, lawyer, or politician, it’s all about serving and giving to those in your life path. Give time and attention to each person you encounter. If you do, it’s a game changer not just for them.

Today’s message is a message to me. As I shed the baggage of this earthly life, I am lighter and stronger. In my physically healthy life, I don’t think I could have left behind everything. I couldn’t leave my job, my car, my house, etcetera. A vow of poverty? Delete that. I had been born into hard working, low income family. I earned my degrees and wanted to give my children the opportunities I didn’t have. I wanted them to be proud of me. I wanted them to love me like I loved them with all of my heart. Fast forward 20 years. ALS has taken so much. It took all of the things that I would have had to leave behind: nice, trendy clothes, new cars, shoes, makeup, but we have been blessed to still have our home. It is renovated for this rolling gal. Things are not done to my expectations, but things get done. I’m good with that. My family and friends are doing so much. They envelope me with true love. I have let so much go. Now I’m baggless, stripped down, and free. Free? Yes. Free from social anxiety, competition, and comparing. I go where I’m needed. I use my time, talent, and treasure to serve others. My journey has been and is a beautiful one.

The other part of this message to me is my daughter is considering the religious life. She’s a special one. She gets it. She wants embrace poverty out of the gate. This may change after four years of college. Only God knows. I’m amazed at the selflessness of her and others for considering giving their lives literally for others. These special people take a vow of Poverty, Chastity, and Obedience. They go where the need is. Their lives are never about what they want. It’s always about what God needs. This perspective was a gift from God through ALS. Just like nuns and monks, I take nothing for the journey except the light He puts in me.

Today think about what makes your heart so heavy. There are so many ways to be bogged down: selfish individuality, competition with co-workers and neighbors, gambling and shopping addictions, alcohol and drug addictions, self hate, and feeling sorry for yourself. It’s time to de-clutter. It’s time to be kind. It’s time to pray for yourself and your neighbors. Bob Dylan sings, “You gotta serve somebody. It might be the devil or it may be the Lord. But you gotta serve somebody.” Remember your actions speak louder than words.

Sarah Anderson Alley
Sal the Let it Behind Gal

Quotes of the Day:

In the third grade, a nun stuffed me in a garbage can under her desk because she said that’s where I belonged. I also had the distinction of being the only altar boy knocked down by a priest during mass.
Bruce Springsteen

Your daily life is your temple and your religion. When you enter into it take with you your all.
Kahalil Gibran

However many holy words you read, however many you speak, what good will they do you if you do not act on upon them?
Buddha

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

Prudence

FB_IMG_1553100956952
Welcome students to day fourteen! Our last assignment was to have mercy on people who are hard to deal with. I hope you had some success. If you didn’t, you need to keep trying. In the next lessons we are going to get a tune up on our hearts. In order for us to put good out into the world, we have to have strong hearts.
What makes a strong heart? Or what makes a heart strong? Our hearts drive our actions. We want to have good actions. I know we have cleaned out a lot of clutter in just 14 days but we still have work to do. Are you a virtuous person? I know the back row was asking what is virtuous? Being virtuous, is what being a Christian is all about. It is what God wants us to be. We have to be morally sound. We have to practice our morals and put them into action that is what being virtuous is.
First virtue we are going to work on is Prudence. Back row I know you are scratching your heads because Prudence is an odd word. Prudence is the cornerstone to all the other virtues. If you do not have Prudence it will be hard to practice and put in place the other virtues. Do you have the ability to choose the correct course of action? Everyday we are given choices. Do we choose the best course of action? Do we show patience when we’re dealing with those spiteful people? What about showing wisdom and not being ensnared into an argument? Do we choose the courage to walk away from a bad situation? You see Prudence is very important. It is being able to discern the best course of action.
How do we master this virtue? Just like everything else it takes practice. It takes studying. The best way for me to find answers is through scriptures. Each day read something from the Bible. If you do a daily devotion, that is based on a Bible verse. Look at Philippians 4: 8&9
8 Finally, beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. 9 Keep on doing the things that you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, and the God of peace will be with you.
These verses tell us to fill our minds with things that are good and pure. Have you ever heard of “garbage in garbage out?” If you fill your minds with bad things then your mind will think bad things. It’s a slippery slope. Next you will be acting in bad ways. Back row you know the things I’m talking about: violent video games and pornography. These are two that we need to guard our minds against. It’s very hard to do so in a culture that has become so lax. Remember we need to make a change and this is the way to do it. We need to live moral lives. Today’s homework is to take inventory of your minds. Is there something you should cut out? Are there things you need to protect your children from seeing? What “garbage” is getting through the filter to your mind? What media is unhealthy? For the last 26 days of our adventure, try to fill your mind and senses with positive images, music, and media. Let’s see if you gain Prudence.
Sal the Prudent Gal
Sarah Anderson Alley
Quotes of the day:
Affairs are easier of entrance than of exit; and it is but common prudence to see our way out before we venture in.
Aesop
Prudence does not mean failing to accept responsibilities and postponing decisions; it means being committed to making joint decisions after pondering responsibly the road to be taken.
Pope Benedict XVI
You must rouse into people’s consciousness their own prudence and strength, if you want to raise their character.
Luc de Clapiers

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

Diablo

Diablo

 

In my mind today, I’m thinking of Beelzebub. I scroll through my news feed and I see tragedy and division. I read posts from people who think the idea of Lucifer is a fable conjured by humans. As I look around each day the evidence keeps piling up that there is indeed something happening here and it’s becoming clear. There is a battle of good versus evil. There always has been and that is part of our human story.

Can you have demons without angels or visa-versa? What about a devil without a God? There is evil but thank God there is also good, literally. We are so divided in our government, churches, and societies. Why? How can we create calm from chaos? Don’t you want some peace; just give me some peace. Who can show us a way to peace? Ah, yes my front row students know the answer. Let’s continue this discussion.

Let’s look at the word diablo. From Luc Ferry’s book A Brief History of Thought he explains the word is derived from Greek as “The who who divides.” Where is the objective in this devilish lesson? Well, let’s ask this question: Who is at fault for violent, tragic shootings, the opioid epidemic, the crumbling family structures, and struggling economies? We can blame gun control issues, the government, and big corporations but underneath all those is an ancient name that is the calumniator supreme. Yes, diablo. By going against the God given morals, we allow diablo to slip into our lives. He wants rampant addictions, children from broken homes, enraged shooters, and greed to rule our economies and governments. It helps him hide behind our problems and cast the blame to everything and everyone but him. He is the ambassador of hate. I want to implore you to stop the disparity among us in our communities and governments.
We have two tiny rules that could cure so many problems. There’s no room for jealousy, pridefulness, or gloating.

There is nothing to fear if we only act morally out of love for each other. Fear is an age old and favorite instrument of Big S. It costs nothing to be kind and considerate to your fellow man or woman. Act out of love not fear. We are entering into our season of thankfulness and joy. Pick your weapon to slice through the darkness of the world and promote light. Feed a family for the holidays through local non-profits, help those wanting work find jobs, donate clothes to shelters, ring a bell for your local Salvation Army, or just be nice to those around you. When I do these things, the gift of joy is so powerful. All these acts of love are free and guess who hates them? Love is so powerful and eternal. It’s the ultimate weapon. Love has a name. I know its name and it has made all the difference in my life. Do you?

Sarah Anderson Alley
Sal the Exposing the Devil Gal

Quotes of the Day:

“For What It’s Worth”

There’s something happening here
But what it is ain’t exactly clear
There’s a man with a gun over there
Telling me I got to beware

I think it’s time we stop
Children, what’s that sound?
Everybody look – what’s going down?

There’s battle lines being drawn
Nobody’s right if everybody’s wrong
Young people speaking’ their minds
Getting so much resistance from behind

It’s time we stop
Hey, what’s that sound?
Everybody look – what’s going down?

What a field day for the heat
A thousand people in the street
Singing songs and carrying signs
Mostly saying, “hooray for our side”

It’s time we stop
Hey, what’s that sound?
Everybody look – what’s going down?

Paranoia strikes deep
Into your life it will creep
It starts when you’re always afraid
Step out of line, the men come and take you away

We better stop
Hey, what’s that sound?
Everybody look – what’s going down?

We better stop
Hey, what’s that sound?
Everybody look – what’s going down?

We better stop
Now, what’s that sound?
Everybody look – what’s going down?

We better stop
Children, what’s that sound?
Everybody look – what’s going down?
Buffalo Springfield

“Sympathy for the Devil”

Please allow me to introduce myself
I’m a man of wealth and taste
I’ve been around for a long, long year
Stole many a man’s soul to waste
And I was ’round when Jesus Christ
Had his moment of doubt and pain
Made damn sure that Pilate
Washed his hands and sealed his fate
Pleased to meet you
Hope you guess my name
But what’s puzzling you
Is the nature of my game
I stuck around St. Petersburg
When I saw it was a time for a change
Killed the czar and his ministers
Anastasia screamed in vain
I rode a tank
Held a general’s rank
When the blitzkrieg raged
And the bodies stank
Pleased to meet you
Hope you guess my name, oh yeah
Ah, what’s puzzling you
Is the nature of my game, oh yeah
I watched with glee
While your kings and queens
Fought for ten decades
For the gods they made
I shouted out
Who killed the Kennedys?
When after all
It was you and me
Let me please introduce myself
I’m a man of wealth and taste
And I laid traps for troubadours
Who get killed before they reached Bombay
Pleased to meet you
Hope you guessed my name, oh yeah
But what’s puzzling you
Is the nature of my game, oh yeah, get down, baby
Pleased to meet you
Hope you guessed my name, oh yeah
But what’s confusing you
Is just the nature of my game, mm yeah
Just as every cop is a criminal
And all the sinners saints
As heads is tails
Just call me Lucifer
‘Cause I’m in need of some restraint
So if you meet me
Have some courtesy
Have some sympathy, and some taste
Use all your well-learned politesse
Or I’ll lay your soul to waste, mm yeah
Pleased to meet you
Hope you guessed my name, mm yeah
But what’s puzzling you
Is the nature of my game, mm mean it, get down
Oh yeah, get on down
Oh yeah
Oh yeah
Tell me baby, what’s my name
Tell me honey, can ya guess my name
Tell me baby, what’s my name
I tell you one time, you’re to blame
Oh, right
What’s my name
Tell me, baby, what’s my name
Tell me, sweetie, what’s my name

Songwriters: Keith Richards / Mick Jagger
Sympathy for the Devil lyrics © Abkco Music, Inc