The Epiphany of our Lord

 In my mind today I am thinking of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. We hear of this every year at Christmas time. Have we ever really taken the time students to look these things up and to define them and create connections within your own minds?  It is true what teachers tell you. If you see something unfamiliar or you have no clue, use a dictionary. These three gifts were given and recorded throughout history. King Herod knew the implications of such gifts. He held power over the tribe of Judah. He controlled their high priests. He murdered so many Jewish boys trying to stop the rise of a new King of the Jews. His plans were thwarted. This powerful birth had been foretold. The whole Earth rejoiced and nature sang. Here’s the secret sauce students. It still does. So many good and beautiful things happen at Christmas more than any other time of the year. Let’s talk about those three gifts.

Gold. Think about it, students: the golden rule, the gold standard, more precious than gold, etc. Gold is a precious metal. It has a symbol of AU on the periodic table of elements. They brought the baby Jesus something priceless. A gift to show the worth of this blessed son that would save the world by allowing Agape to be the guidance for all from this day forward. Students, Agape is a special kind of love: sacrificial. What an amazing gift He is. What could we give God this year that is more precious than gold? Could you show great charity? Think about that. 

Frankincense. This is a gum or sap that comes from trees in Somalia and coastal Arabia. It is used for its strong perfume when burnt. The smoke is aromatic and used for rituals. It is very expensive. They have discovered that it is good for medicinal reasons:  asthma, ibs, cancer, skin problems, and arthritis.  It is still harvested today. This gift shows devotion to the health and life of Christ.  Christ still lives today within each one of us if we only allow him to be in charge of our hearts.  How can you show great devotion, students?  Yes it is homework.

 Last but not least, myrrh.  It is also a resin or gum from a tree. These trees grow naturally in these countries: Saudi Arabia, Oman, Yemen, Somalia, and eastern Ethiopia.  It also has medicinal properties just like frankincense.  It also has uses for perfume and incense. It has been used before Christ came as a man in religious ceremonies of the Hebrews.  Moses used it. Jacob used it. Esther used it. Jesus was given it on the cross mixed with wine. Joseph of Arimathea gave it for Jesus’s burial.  Ancient Egyptians as do those of Islamic faith used and use it.  It is used to anoint holy people.  It represents a sacrifice. What could you sacrifice for Christ?  Would you sacrifice? Some people can’t even do this. They have become so self centered which is the very opposite of why Christ came to this world. Agape. 

 Today is the last day of Christmas for us as Catholic christians. It is the Epiphany of our Lord.  The realization that God did enter the world and He came to save us by giving us a better way to love: Agape.  As I watch the children from my window play in the snow, I wish you a Happy Agape Day!  Now get outside and enjoy students! Build a Snowman for me and throw a few snowballs! The best of all is to sled.  Be sure to do plenty of that! 

Sarah Anderson Alley 

Sal the Agape Gal

 Quotes of the Day:

1. “When one has once fully entered the realm of love, the world — no matter how imperfect — becomes rich and beautiful, it consists solely of opportunities for love.”

― Søren Kierkegaard, ‘Works Of Love’, 1847.

2. “Shine your soul with the same egoless humility as the rainbow and no matter where you go in this world or the next, love will find you, attend you, and bless you.”

― Aberjhani, ‘Journey Through The Power Of The Rainbow: Quotations From A Life Made Out Of Poetry’, 2014.

3. “Divine love, agape, is self-sacrificing love, which sounds difficult, as it is, and not very attractive. If the best image we have of love is of a man who’s been tortured and hung upon a cross … But it is the highest Christian image of love.”

― Kevin Hart, ‘The Poetry And Prayers Of Kevin Hart’, 2011.

4. “Agape is total love… Whoever knows and experiences agape learns that nothing else in the world is important – just love.”

― Paolo Coelho, ‘The Pilgrimage’, 1987.

5. “The only way love can last a lifetime is if it’s unconditional. The truth is this: love is not determined by the one being loved but rather by the one choosing to love.”

― Stephen Kendrick, ‘The Love Dare’, 2008.

https://kidadl.com/articles/best-agape-love-quotes-about-unconditional-love

Sal’s Dark Night

In my mind today I am thinking about laughter, loyalty, and love. Students, I have been having a dark night of the soul. It is just everywhere I go or turn I feel sadness and grief. I look at the world and I see all of the brokenness. My heart literally aches in my chest. The past few weeks have been so hard. Everywhere I look even within my own home I see the demon of the world trying to tear us apart. I guess students I have taken my eyes off of the cross. I have allowed my heart to be pierced by so much evil. I have allowed it to get into my mind. I hear you mumbling back row thinking she’s really lost it this time. For at least a month I have not been able to sleep well. I wake up and stare at the ceiling. I watch the shadows and I pray. I cannot tell you how many prayers were lifted from my body during this dark season of my soul. I finally realized that I was not putting things at the altar and letting God take them away. I have tried to fix a lot of things instead of allowing God to carry the heavy burdens of my heart. Shame on me.  If I could have curled up in the fetal position these last 2 weeks that’s where I would have been.  I know that we all have to go. I realized it is just part of the circle. All of the wonderful plans that I try to put in place for God are futile. My husband and my journey will end. Hopefully God will give us more precious time with our families and friends. But no matter how hard I try to help those that I leave behind is futile. During this time I have been surrounded by people but I have felt so lonely. I allowed hopelessness to enter into my heart. The only way I can figure it out or explain it is that I think I have been mourning. I am mourning what was. I am mourning what will come one day without me. My physical separation from my family and friends, especially my grandchildren. Take heart, students. Do not allow the devil to steal your present moments and make you so sad because you are wasting days. Days that could be spent loving and laughing with the ones you love.  I have almost driven my family crazy this last month.  They have been desperately trying to help me get out of this dark place. Here’s what you need to understand. Students just because I lay all of my burdens at the foot of the cross; they are still there. They are but I am definitely protected from them. God does not take these horrible things away from us, we have to give them to him. We have to let so much go and that is so hard because we want to be fixers of our hearts and souls. We want to fix our broken families. We want to fix our broken brothers and sisters. We want to fix things where our children have no struggles. This is the hardest lesson of all. In my midnight prayers God told me you have to let me have everything. You are a child of God. You do work for me, but let me work for you too. I am so guilty of this. Back row don’t get too comfortable because I am getting back up or back in my chair to finish my race. I know that you will be sad that we still have more lessons to learn. Even the teacher needs lessons sometimes. As I watch the birds from my window every morning it reminds me. Especially this morning as I watched the robins have a party in all the trees eating the berries. They exist because of something bigger. They do not struggle. God provides everything. He does that for us as well if we only let him. Today I do feel all of the pain and suffering of my friends and family but I am using that to guide my prayers.  I will be loyal to God. I will immerse myself with His love. I am seeking joy and laughter.  I am letting go and letting God. Yes it is homework!

Sarah Anderson Alley 

Sal the Troubled Heart Gal

In the moments of desperation God came to me so many times through the hands of my friends.  Out of nowhere I received flowers right after I had to say goodbye to a wonderful pet.  Our cat of 15 plus years. Thank you Sandy for being God’s handmaiden. I received cookies that are a secret family recipe from my friend. Thank you Carrie for loving me like Christ. I had so many meaningful conversations. They helped me to divide the light from the dark. Thank you Andrea,  Father Patrick, Charlotte, Carol, and so many others. Your love and prayers have bolstered me in my weakness. 

This post is for all of those out there that continue to love and pray and help others.  You are the angels on Earth that God works through.

Quote of the Day: 

In the dark night of the soul, bright flows the river of God. The dark night of the soul is a journey into light, a journey from your darkness into the strength and hidden resources of your soul. When everything is lost, and all seems darkness, then comes the new life and all that is needed.

Cause and Effect

In my mind today I am thinking about cause and effect. I remember the days of teaching Language Arts. Oh, how I loved to intertwine all of those academic subjects into one! I was even able to teach history through the language arts. The history teachers loved me. Language arts is the study of literature, writing, vocabulary, spelling, and grammar. 

Today I am talking about cause and effect. This used to be a standard in the curriculum that we had to be sure students understood. The thing is it can be applied to our lives today.  This is how you teach. You teach students to use what they learned in your class and apply it to the lives that they will live as adults. 

Cause and effect. Let’s look at our world today. What is causing all of the grief and turmoil in this world? In our country? In our little cities? In our homes?  Let’s work backwards. Yes students, I know I have taught you many ways to figure out problems especially in math. Look at the answer 21, and then figure out, how in the world did you get that answer? Well that is cause and effect. What caused you to get the number 21, for example? Did you multiply seven 3 times? Did you add up three rows of 7? What operation did you use to get the answer 21?

Cause and effect. What is happening right now in our world? What causes: School shootings, unwanted children, fatherless children, children orphaned from addictions of their parents, genocides, human trafficking, plagues, floods, famine, etc. These are all effects. What causes this to happen in a society of civilized people? We are definitely not focused on the family. I said this on purpose because this is something I used to listen to and read books about from the person that coined this phrase: Dr. James Dobson.

When I became a mother, I became scared. Scared of what the world would do to my children. I was so desperate to find a way to protect them. The first thing I did was to ask my husband to help us find a church to attend and raise our children. This is something that I never had but I saw others had. I had a very hard working mother, trying to survive with 5 children and an absent father for a while because of addictions. She didn’t have the luxury of time to take us to church. She would find church services on television to help us or to watch with her. She made me understand how important it was to have God the Father, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit to help you through all these terrible famines, floods, and storms of life. One of her favorites for us to watch together was Adrian Rogers of Bellevue Baptist church in Memphis, Tennessee. 

You see, my mother never learned to drive, but she tried to find a way to help us look towards something bigger that would help us have order at our houses and homes when we became mothers and fathers. My 5th grade teacher called the television the Idiot Box. I understand why because now we have miniature idiot boxes. We are letting things control us instead of using them to help us. My mother used the Idiot Box to help us the best way she could while working late shifts and overtimes so we could be okay. 

Students, let’s analyze this. The cause of me searching so desperately to be the best mother I could possibly be was my mother pointing the way to something better than this life. My mother did not have a lot of money, but she had so much love for her God and her children. She knew that that would be a greater gift. She prayed all of the time. We found several notebooks filled with prayers for us. We understood she feared for our souls as well as our Earthly lives. She knew that she was limited, but her God wasn’t. He would help us through the storms of life. She told us there was a right and wrong. The effects of my mother’s love and prayers are that some of her children are still believing and try to give their children that inheritance that can never be taken away. Back row students, listen. My mother had 5 children, and we are not perfect, but we do understand that this world is not the end of it all. She is the reason. She is the cause, and my life is the effect. 

Let’s take the lesson to a bigger picture than just one family. Look at the world. We have children murdered every day. I am sad to say in the good old USA we have abortions, school shootings, and human trafficking. What is the cause of this? We are losing our connection with the Divine. Mothers do not know how to be mothers. Fathers do not know how to be fathers. Children are brought into a world of turmoil. They have no structure. Destruction is what they have, or a structure of busyness. 

We are too busy to go to church. We are too busy to spend time with our children. We have been lulled to sleep with technology and the fear of missing out. YouTube is a babysitter. Being a parent is the hardest job if you do it right. It is a huge struggle. We don’t have the time to do it the way it should be done. We do have time, however, to shuffle thousands of activities that keep them from being children. We want them to be something bigger.

I was an athlete, and it is true that your competition practices while you are asleep. In reality, only a small percentage will be able to go forward as a professional athlete, but then what? In one of the blogs I have written recently, I talked about building things up instead of tearing things down. If you do not understand your past, and if you do not have traditions that are good and pure for your family, then your present moments are just discombobulated. 

We live in the present moment. Our present moments are guided by our traditions of family. If we tear those down, we have done a grave injustice to our children. If you spend all of your moments without goals, you have no future. You won’t have a future. We want everything right now. Impatience. 

Students, do you think that we are very impatient? We cannot tear down our family traditions, because if we do, we tear down our families. That is exactly what El Diablo wants. He wants us to forget how to be mothers and fathers. Is it working? My precious mother knew that when she had children, they would be her legacy. They would be how she put what she loved so dearly into the future. What are the mothers and fathers of today putting into their children for a legacy? Are they filling them with virtue and morals? Or are they teaching them how to be a better rat in the rat race? 

Here’s the rub: they are not teaching much of anything to the children anymore.  It is not the school’s job to raise your children. It is not the government’s job to provide for all of your children. It is your job. It would be fabulous to have a professional athlete for a son or daughter, but the BEST joy is to be a good mother or father. To see them choose the better part of this earthly life, which is to love each other and to take care of the most important thing that God gives us: our families. 

Wake up, America. Wake up, world. Just like James Dobson told us, we need to focus on the family if we want to make what we have left a better place to live. Understand that love is an action verb. It is not an emotion. It is not sex or lust. It is a sacrificial gift of one person to another. Sacrifice. It gives up everything to God.  

Sacrifice your desires to help your partner be the best mother or father they could possibly be. That goes both ways within a marriage. That’s why we call marriage a sacrament from God. It is not to be looked upon as all pleasure. It is not to be looked upon as trivial or easy. Marriage and love are very hard. It is not just a whimsical passion of unfettered love. We have definitely lost our focus on the family.  

This is the 1st week of advent, and this is what I hope for us in this country: focus on the family again. Yes back row, this is homework!

Sarah Anderson Alley 

Sal the Cause and Effect Gal

Quotes of the Day:

The best way to get children to do what you want is to spend time with them before disciplinary problems occur—having fun together and enjoying mutual laughter and joy. When those moments of love and closeness happen, kids are not as tempted to challenge and test the limits. Many confrontations can be avoided by building friendships with kids and thereby making them want to cooperate at home. It sure beats anger as a motivator of little ones!

Nations that are populated largely by immature, immoral, weak-willed, cowardly, and self-indulgent men cannot and will not long endure. These types of men include those who sire and abandon their children; who cheat on their wives; who lie, steal, and covet; who hate their countrymen; and who serve no god but money. That is the direction culture is taking today’s boys.

Don’t marry the person you think you can live with; marry only the individual you think you can’t live without.

No man stands so tall as when he stoops to help a child.

Great beginnings are not as important as the way one finishes.

Whenever two human beings spend time together, sooner or later they will probably irritate one another. This is true of best friends, married couples, parents and children, or teachers and students. The question is: How do they respond when friction occurs? There are four basic ways they can react: 

• They can internalize the anger and send it downward into a memory bank that never forgets. This creates great pressure within and can even result in disease and other problems.

• They can pout and be rude without discussing the issues. This further irritates the other person and leaves him or her to draw his or her own conclusions about what the problem may be.

• They can blow up and try to hurt the other person. This causes the death of friendships, marriages, homes, and businesses.

• Or they can talk to one another about their feelings, being very careful not to attack the dignity and worth of the other person. This approach often leads to permanent and healthy relationships.

Dr. James C. Dobson

Autumn March for ALS 2021

In my mind today, I am excited about having time to write. October has grown from being a one event to a multi – event month. My family, God bless them, for putting up with me and my divinely inspired ways to pump good into our little corner of the world. This month I have really pushed all of my family to the precipice of sanity. I apologise, but look at how God blessed others through the efforts of my family and friends. That’s what it’s all about students. Pouring out yourself for others. 

This year without key players to pull off the race, it became my beast of burden. I knew God would bring the people to pull it off. The Alley Alliance is a Motley crew of dedicated individuals. We have learned to persevere despite cancer, strokes, mental illness, ALS, death, etc. I could fill the entire blog with the obstacles we deal with and shoulder as a team. The most important member is God. He literally carries us each year. He carries me all the time. I feel it. 

  The race is every year on the 3rd Saturday of October. It has been this way now for 32 years. I definitely do not want to jinx the race but there has only been one day out of the 32 years that it has rained.  This year the race fell a lot earlier because of the calendar. There was a huge chance of rain that morning. The clouds parted and it was so beautiful.  There was not a one single cloud in the sky. Miracles. I cannot even tell you how many angels showed up that day to help this be such a beautiful day. There were old friends and new friends that came to do the work to make this happen. There were so many people praying for the race in heaven as well as on Earth. So many beautiful things have been born out of the Autumn March for ALS: What Ever It Takes Scholarships, Bart Williams Cookie Scholarships, Back to School Biking for Bart, Addi’s Haunted Trail, connections with Depot Days race and stronger ties with Newbern, Tennessee, and CHRISTgiving 2021. The race ties so many people together in our little community from the YMCA to the Parks and Recreation authorities. It includes people from all walks of life from mayors to farmers. We are able to do so much good for all of those around us just because of this little race. Next year will be year 7 for me as the race director, God willing.  It will be October 15th 2022 downtown Dyersburg, TN at 9 AM. If you want to be a part of something wonderful then mark your calendar! I know next year will be even bigger and better for the greater good.  Thank you to the entirety of our little county in Tennessee.  It is so wonderful to be a part of such a lovely and loving community. Thanks be to God.

Sarah Anderson Alley 

Sal the Autumn March Gal 

Quote for the Day:

Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not.

Dr. Seuss

The meaning of life is to find your gift. The purpose of life is to give it away.

Picasso 

Non nobis solum nati sumus. (Not for ourselves alone are we born.)

Cicero 

We make a living by what we get, we make a life by what we give.

Winston Churchill 

Service to others is the rent you pay for your room here on earth.

Mohammad Ali

Only a life lived for others is a life worthwhile.

Einstein 

In a gentle way, you can shake the world.

Gandhi 

Be who God meant you to be and you will set the world on fire.

St. Catherine of Siena

Dreams, Miracles, and Angels

In my mind today,  I have been amazed at angels, miracles, and dreams. Students, I am currently Sal the super busy Gal. I am currently juggling this year’s race, a Haunted Trail, and serving on committees to bring the good to our little corner of the world besides having two weekly Bible studies [one virtually and one in person] and teaching Wednesday nights at church.  I don’t tell you this to impress you, I tell you because just think what you could do with an ambulatory body. I totally understand that I get one chance to do as much good as I can for God on this Earth. I totally understand that we are all living on borrowed time. Heaven does really await us if we only choose it. Have you made your choice? Or are you wavering? I think that is why I write this blog, my students. 

Today is the feast day for guardian angels. This week was also a holy day for the angels Michael, Gabriel, and Raphael. Do you believe in angels? I hear a lot of people talking about angels. I have read a lot of books about people seeing angels. Whether you choose to believe or not each one of us is granted a guardian angel at our birth. That gives us a segue into miracles. 

Have you ever had a time in your life where you escaped death? Miraculously, you were unscathed. As I think back over my life, oh, there have been several occasions that I should have suffered grave injuries but walked away unharmed. I can remember on one of my birthdays I was in a terrible motorcycle accident with my brother. He only had on cut off blue jeans. He had stopped by to wish me a happy birthday on one of the coolest motorcycle ever. I begged and pleaded with my mother to let me ride just up to the highway and back. I was on the back and I was around 11 years old. I don’t remember what caused my brother to have to lay the motorcycle down on the highway but this is what I remember. I could still see how we were slowly going toward the pavement. My brother reached around and grabbed me. He threw me into the median. As all of this was going on while the traffic was completely stalled. Everything was frozen in time. I watched my brother’s body fly across the pavement. Remember he didn’t have on anything but cut off jeans. On one side of his body he had severe road rash and horrible deep holes where some of the flesh had been ripped away by gravel. I sat there in the grass and watched him get up bloody and come over and asked me if I was okay. I think I just shook my head yes. He righted the motorcycle and we got on it. He took me home. This accident happened on the bypass that was only a few miles from my house. The birthday girl arrived back safely but my poor brother had a long road of recovery. I am so sure that the guardian angels of my brother and I are still very busy and have been throughout our lives. Another time I was in a wreck and everything was going in slow motion as we hydroplaned. I threw my hands up and just started praying because I thought this is it. My friend, Big D, grabbed me and the steering wheel. I  was freaking out and she said get ahold of yourself! We barely missed rolling the truck down an embankment that would have surely killed us. Guardian angels are real. I have had so many near death experiences. One of those, actually the last one, I am writing it into a book. I don’t think God is ready for me to leave the Earth yet. I still have lots of work to do. I want to live a life that speaks of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. I know I will go to the other side one day. The closer I get the less scared I become.

And last but not least, let’s talk about dreams. I have some of the most vivid crazy dreams ever. Just ask my poor family. In one of the Bible studies we are talking about the Book of Daniel. Talk about dreams! This guy was an interpreter of Dreams. As we discussed all of these Mysteries of the Bible, my mind became clearer. One of the ladies in our group had covid. She was not supposed to live. Her family was called in several times. As she lay there on a vent for days upon days she had vivid dreams. She explained to us that she felt a battle. Something was trying to pull her to death and something was trying to pull her back to Earth. She had friends that drove all the way from Alabama to just drive around the hospital in Jackson, Tennessee to pray for her. She is a miracle. She also had vivid dreams that she is trying to understand. The doctors told her that the medicine she was on would not have caused such vivid dreams. My husband was also on a vent a couple of years ago. He did not remember anything. You see dreams are important. They happened all the times throughout the Bible. There is something mysterious and so much bigger than ourselves that fights each day for the good. Have you made a connection yet? Yes! Front row students, angels, miracles, and dreams are so intertwined. Good question back row! Yes, if there are angels, there are demons as well. We have to guard ourselves against the demons that are also out there fighting for the evil to do their god’s bidding. Here’s a good assignment for you over fall break. Read the Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis. This is exactly what I envision the devil and his demons are trying to do even today. These letters were written at a very pivotal time in history. I think we are there again students. Are we going to choose the good? Are we going to be the good? Are we going to give in to all of our vices? It is so easy to give in to all of your vices. It is not easy to say no. You have to be strong. Join me and try to be the good. There is a good fight and this is it. 

Sarah Anderson Alley 

Sal the Dreaming Gal

Quotes of the Day:

“You are never too old to set another goal or to dream a new dream.” C.S. Lewis

“There are many who are not guilty of doing anything wrong but very guilty of sins of omission – the things they neglect to do – the good things – the kind, thoughtful words, compassionate thoughts and hopeful attitudes they might have had towards their neighbor.”

Mother Angelica 

“Miracles are a retelling in small letters of the very same story which is written across the whole world in letters too large for some of us to see.” C.S. Lewis 

“For every angel fluttering through the skies, there is a divine counterpart here on Earth. Each of us has a golden celestial-self just waiting to be awakened.” Sue K

Suck it Up Buttercup!

They are the ones who . . . bear fruit through perseverance. (Luke 8:15)

In my mind today, it’s so full of words and emotions and blogs that are swimming in my head and making me dizzy! (Remember that song “Dizzy” students? If you haven’t,  listen to it. Yes, it’s homework back row!) Let’s look at that word perseverance. The above is my verse for the day.

What is perseverance? Well, it’s when you suck it up buttercup and just do the work that needs to be done. Never give up. Never. Today’s readings talked about the parable of the seeds and the types of ground they will fall upon. So this is another assignment too, I want you to reflect on your heart. Not the blockages or your cholesterol but your heart. Is your heart workable? Is it ready to hear good things and to do good things? A teaching partner of mine always said if a child’s heart becomes hardened by the world then it is hard for us as teachers to break through all of the hurt. Thankfully in the 20 years that I was able to teach I could only recall about five children who would not allow us to help their hardened hearts. What is the cure for a child whose heart or even an adult whose heart has been so devastated? It doesn’t even allow his/her ears to hear good things. Something that stuck out to me one Sunday was this :it is not the outside world that can defile your heart but what you put in or let in it. This makes me feel so much better especially as a teacher. If you can get them to listen and put good things into their hearts, it will help their heart to be fruitful. It could crowd the bad and the good works will overflow.They will give good back because that’s what God wanted all along.

Some things that harden your heart for example are addictions. God had warned us of these; they are the seven deadly sins. That’s homework, too. You need to look up the seven deadly sins and be honest with yourself. Which one of these allows your heart to be defiled and corrupted? Addictions come in all shapes and sizes. These are the tools that help us to fall and fail. These are not tools of God. If you are reading this right now and you have trouble with any type of addiction God will help you. It’s a two way street. Just like the woman that Jesus said your sins are forgiven but go and sin no more. You simply have to say help me God. Help me not to overindulge in whatever vice you have. I do not want to be a slave to my addictions. You have overflow. You have to try your best to resist. Will you always be able to resist? Probably not. You will still have times that you fall. Here is the key. Remember what I told you I heard at church? Yes, that’s right nothing from the outside can defile you. Only what is in your heart can. If your heart has been hurt over and over then you have a lot of work to do. The work will be hard . Nothing that is worth anything is easy. God did not promise this life would be easy, on the contrary he told us it was going to be extremely hard. That is why we have Jesus. Our God is the God of redemption. Are you tired of this world and its snares? Place your burdens on Christ. He will carry you. Whisper that simple, “Help me God.”

What do you keep in your heart? Is it treasure? Is it trash? Is it weeds? Is it bouquets of beautiful flowers? You see students, it’s your choice what you put in your heart. Please begin to build treasure in your heart. How? By doing the good that needs to be done, Wherever You Are! We are all in this together. It doesn’t matter red, yellow, black, white or whatever you want to call yourself. Every single one of you, students, is first and foremost a child of God. That is your label. So many people today will argue that there is no God. So how can I be a child of God? Well until you are able to create another human without anything but basic elements then you will only be a child of God. How do you think we got here? A creator blessed is how we came to be. Science is not our God. I totally understand that a lot of hurt has been done in the name of God. We have to realize that hurt comes from our weaknesses as humans. We are given a free will. The free will to make good choices or to make bad choices. As a teacher so many times it hurt my heart to see precious children who were not loved or treasured. Their hearts were just a mess. The good news is until you take your last breath, your heart can be Redeemed by God. Does this mean you’re going to get that Escalade or the popularity you always wanted? No. It means that God will allow you to love again and you be sure to give love. Why, because that’s how love is. The more you give the more you get in return. That’s why I talk about building treasure in your heart. Do something good for your mother today. Do something good for your neighbor today. Stop and talk to someone who looks lonely. If you see someone hurting or in a bad situation you pray for them and help if you can. This is what building treasure in your heart in looks like. The treasure will continue to grow and it will flow out of you like gifts to everyone around you. You don’t believe me back row? Try it! I think you will be so amazed at what God will do for your heart. Do your homework!

Sarah Anderson Alley

Sal the Perseverance Gal

Prayer for Today: “Jesus, help me persevere in prayer so that I can bear fruit for you.”

Death into Life

In my mind lately, I have been thinking a lot about this life and this world. I don’t have all the answers. Who does? I don’t know how we go each day and continue through sorrow, great times, and mediocre days. The latest book club read was a deep one. It made you analyze everything. I have already had my eyes open to so much of the grief caused by the human will and wheel. This world keeps turning and turning. It is older than time or the time that we are cognizant of at least. The book is set in the heart of the African continent: the Congo or Zaire. The thing is the oldest forest is where I took the journey with this book. Students, when I read a book I actually take a vacation. I begin research on the areas of the book: topographical and political. The more that I find out or see of this amazing planet we call home I know there is something so mystical about it. This area is considered the cradle of civilization. To have trees that are thousands of years old and to be able to walk under those are to me treasured. The richness of this area was so baffling. The ruthlessness of this area was breathtaking. In the 17 months of the stay there, 31 children died in the little village. Do the math. Back row you can do division and you can also round and figure out the percentage. I know that the front row wants more data like the total number of births, but the point is that the mortality rate in this area is astounding to someone like us living here in the United States. The amazing thing is that the people there, the indigenous people, work with life just as well as they do with death. This is how this book connected with my mind as I live this little bitty life in West Tennessee.

Do you ever think about the older you get the smaller you feel? I don’t know if it is our brains that pick up the speed and start collecting data and figure out that we are quite insignificant. There are so many things going on on this earth at this very second from forest fires, to hurricanes, to droughts, to famine, to deadly viruses, and the list could fill an entire blog. This is the point. No matter how big or small you feel in this life, this is it. This is our journey. This is my journey. What is this we call ourselves today? The information age? The disinformation age? Who do you trust? Who do you believe? What do you believe? How do you believe it? Who’s right? Who is wrong? All of this stuff gets in my head and I try to make sense of it. I am not always successful but I had a reckoning the other day at church of course that has urged me to write and teach.

Sunday before last was the day chosen to Christen or baptize our youngest granddaughter. I have been so blessed in this little life. Things are so crazy everywhere but in this moment I received clarity. I watched my beautiful daughter-in-law hold my beautiful granddaughter during the service. A sadness washed over me. I quickly realized this was a blessing; I was getting to watch my four grandchildren grow and become so beautiful and wonderful. I thought about my youngest daughter. As I prayed and swayed with the rhythm of the mass and heaven coming down to this little altar in Tennessee, I envisioned my youngest daughter holding an infant at the baptismal fount beside a handsome man. She was glowing. The homily or the message is what took my breath. The message this Sunday was about whether in life or death we are all connected. Even after my death I will be able to visit this altar each time the hallelujahs and the Holy Holy Holy are sung in unison. I realized this is where my spirit dwells with God. My days will be filled in heaven as they are on earth. I will be able to visit and be a part of that everlasting love until we are all back together. Death really does not have the sting we humans are so fearful of in our fragile, mortal vessels. The fabric of our lives, our very own DNA will continue the journey. Everyone wants specifics. In the Congo, the people understood so well the ebb and flow of life and death. Does this mean that they had a hard heart? No. It means the exact opposite of that. The children lost were wailed over and cried over as their bodies began to return to the very dark soil of the heart of Africa. So many of the women have up to nine children but only one survives and that is if they are lucky. Each one is cherished and celebrated whether they stay in the living or are in death. Their little time here is part of what God calls creation. Everything works together. Everything is of God to these indigenous people. They continually depend on daily sustenance from God. Does it magically poof out of the air? No. Is it a treacherous and hard life? Yes, most definitely. Front row students, what have I tried to get across to you? That is right. We have to embrace our journey no matter how small and try to do the good work with God for all. Can I change governments and all of the wheels of consumerism and neglect of this precious earth? No but I can do the best I can with what God has given me and where he has placed me in his picture of our world. Do what you can where you are. Do not forget the gift of our planet. We have the chance to use our knowledge for good. To live gentler lives on the land and to not rape and pillage other areas for the consumeristic will and wheel. To be a good steward of the land is what God wants for us. To live in communion with the land and to treat it with respect. I am going to die one day. Who knows what day? The next church service that I attended the priest announced that one of our faithful parishioners had entered into heaven that same very day. Was I sad? Yes very for us but not for him. He did his work well. I smiled. I knew he had no limits anymore of his earthly body. He had come down to the altar and celebrated with us. I felt so full of God and the Holy Spirit. Yes we say goodbye but then we are born into that everlasting life. At the funeral mass, there were so many reminders of his goodness. The biggest ones were his children and grandchildren and great-grandchildren. I was able to sit right behind a beautiful 9-month-old child. She was so beautiful and I could see the light in her eyes. I could see her Papi’s spirit shining through her. She smiled so beautifully and communicated with me. I am so astounded at the children that are drawn to me. This body ravaged with ALS is a spectacle indeed. I just think the light of Christ beams out of me in some way or form so children want to touch me and to smile and giggle. I know the back row thinks that they are laughing and giggling because I look so goofy but I think there’s just something more. I don’t think it; I know it. For all of those who have faced death of a loved one or are facing death I am to tell you be not afraid. Don’t be scared to live for fear of dying. It is in your death that you are one of those praying for others. Your journey matters. Let me say that again for the back row: your earthly journey matters no matter how long or short, big or small. Live it fully with the grace of God.

Sarah Anderson Alley

Sal the Living Eternally Gal

Quotes of the Day:

Find out how much God has given you and from it take what you need; the remainder is needed by others.

 Saint Augustine

The world is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page.

 Saint Augustine

Do you wish to be great? Then begin by being. Do you desire to construct a vast and lofty fabric? Think first about the foundations of humility. The higher your structure is to be, the deeper must be its foundation.

 Saint Augustine

Since you cannot do good to all, you are to pay special attention to those who, by the accidents of time, or place, or circumstances, are brought into closer connection with you.

Saint Augustine

Martha, Jubliees, and Prophets

It shall be a jubilee for you. (Leviticus 25:10)

In my mind today students, I am thinking about Marthas and Marys as well as years of jubilees. I definitely do not want to forget about prophets. As of late I have been quite the Martha. Students, do you know who I’m talking about? You know the sisters of Lazarus. Martha was that sister that was always busy, busy, busy! She was busy preparing the way to have a great feast or festival to gather as many people together as she possibly could to hear the words of her friend Jesus. Her sister Mary on the other hand was the one that sat at his feet and listened to all of his stories and parables. She listened to Jesus’ philosophy of life. She is also the one that much to Judas’ chagrin used an entire container of perfumed oils on Jesus’s feet. The longer I live with ALS the more I become a Mary. I have been given time to study, read, pray, and reflect on what God really wants for us. During this season I have met the most amazing Martha.

This Martha that I have become a sister with is so like the Martha of Jesus’s time. They’re not enough adjectives to assign to this amazing woman. She has and will continue to try to work and bless others in the little city and county in which we live. Her influence and inspiration doesn’t just reach within the little county borders. Everyone she meets realizes what an amazing woman she is. For years she has been a one-man show or should I say a one-woman show holding up Matthew 25:40 INC by her sheer will. I came up on board with her during one of the most tumultuous seasons of our little nonprofit. She never wavered. She never lost faith. She continually leans on God. She is a friend of those on the fringe of life. I am so glad to be a part of this with her. The little group of women that all fight so desperately for this little non-profit remind me so much of those women that were at the cross. (There’s also good men that are in our boat!) We are building something so beautiful, so big, and we know God is going to bless it. Our goal is to be a non-profit that can stand alone and help all of those in need. You see, we are so very blessed to be tied with wonderful organizations like the United Way. We want to be able to help all people regardless of their station. This is hard to do whenever you have so many guidelines. During the pandemic there were so many new clients that were just like my precious Martha and me. People that just work to survive and to provide for their children. People that want to give their children a hand up not a handout. These people in turn would turn around and give much of their stimulus contributions to us to help keep going forward for all. Jesus told us the poor would always be with us and we do provide very well for them at Matthew 25:40 INC. We want to be able to provide for all of God’s children. That means the ones who fall on hard times, the addicted, the struggling women with children with an absent father or visa-versa, the struggling sons and fathers, and the homeless. All of the Marthas on the ship have so many wonderful ideas and plans to help our little city and county be the healing source God intended for those that are the least. You never know when a storm will come to you. We want to be able to use our faith and God’s Providence to help you. Thanks be to God for all of the Marthas and the Marys.

Yesterday was a great day! It was a day of jubilee. I began reading my scriptures this morning and that was the first thing I read. Jubilees are years of great forgiveness and love. They spread hope. They are new seasons. We had the Back to School Biking for Bart parade yesterday. We had 250 backpacks full of supplies, treats, and chronologically separated for grades ready to go. Several people came with bikes. Several people came just to walk. Several came to just show how wonderful Mr Bart was to us. We had an antique bike rack donated and blessed that will be at the Farmers market to commemorate Mr Bart. We had several new bicycles donated as well as old to be given to children. We had children chanting Mr Bart, Mr Bart, Mr Bart,! This was all going on while his precious grandchildren watched. They know how special their “Cookie” was. His children were so happy. His wife was so gracious as always. We had our own jubilee yesterday! 

Students, what is the definition of a prophet? Come on first row! Don’t think about money all the time. Yes, learned teacher. If you live in this little corner of Tennessee you will probably say you were blessed to know a prophet. That would be my friend, Mr Bart. He was so many things rolled up into one. Everything honorable he possessed. Humility beyond compare. He was very gallant. He was a school counselor and teacher for 40 plus years. Had cancer not come to his door, I know he would still be there today. I don’t really think he was that well known in the little city in which he was born, Miami, Ohio. But boy oh boy, we all know him by name and he knows us. My friend taught me so much and now that he is gone on to bigger acquisitions in heaven. All of us are going to pick up the baton that he has left for us. He really prepared us well. His legacy will continue on. Students, do you think that there are prophets still around today? Oh I really do. They may not wear sandals or dashikis in our little town or county but they are all pulling for you to be the best person you could possibly be. What is that? Well students, the best you could possibly be is to be a living saint. Those are some tough standards to live up to but it is doable. Just look at the long list of saints throughout history. People didn’t just stop trying to live lives as saints; we have just become blind to the possibility of living up to these standards. It is so much easier to not worry about others and their strife. To stay complacent in your comfort and to just live your life for you and not for others. It is a big deal and a big challenge. I really think you could do it, students. I am trying my very best but I also fail. I just won’t give up! Our big friendly giant, Mr Bart, was definitely on to something. He was a quiet man. His life on the other hand screamed volumes of how to be a better person. Students, I want you to look around and search out people that live lives that are honorable. Yes it is homework. I want you to thank them. Just like I am writing this to thank all of you for our little jubilee yesterday! God is good all the time. All the time God is good!

Sarah Anderson Alley

Sal the Prophet Seeking Gal

Quotes of the day:

It shall be a jubilee for you. (Leviticus 25:10)

What you do to the least of these you do to me. (Matthew 25:40)

The words of the prophets are written on the subway walls and tenements halls and whispered in the sounds of silence.

Paul Simon

https://www.matthew2540.org/

Indiana Alley

In my mind, I have been very busy. So has my sweet little family because of me. It is so hard to be a caregiver. I think it is the hardest thing ever. It becomes very tenuous at times whenever those closest to me become exhausted and even hurt because of my ALS adventure.

This past week has been a whirlwind. Lots of jobs to do and lots of places to go to advocate for the good. I absolutely wear my family out. My son who is my main caregiver had his back go out. My daughter who has been my main caregiver as well during the pandemic and the summer has gone to a summer adventure archaeological dig for school. My poor husband has to be on continuous oxygen all the time. His health is just as fragile as mine. I really cannot write this crazy stuff that happens to us. My other son has two little ones and his life is very wild trying to build a family and work. This is why I have some days that are just crying days.

I cry because my children should not have to do this for me. Don’t get me wrong I am so very grateful for them. I do not want to hurt them and that’s what it feels like on these crying days. My sweet sister has had to come and try to fill in the empty spaces but this is not fair for her. She just began her season of retirement. ALS just plainly sucks, that’s all it is in a nutshell. The days that I watch my family suffer because of me hurts me more than anything. I have to cry through the tears just to write this stuff. It hurts so, so much in my heart and in my soul. Mother’s are supposed to take care of their children, not the other way around. I truly hate that my family has drawn the short straw.

As we hurriedly tried to get everything together for my last little bird to head out for her archaeological adventure, I found myself having little spells of grief and crying. She and I have this secret club; it is the Bug Club. We had so many days together this summer working at the library with children that we didn’t have extra special bug-to-bug time a lot. We shared ourselves with the community and at the end of the summer I found myself craving for just a little more bug to bug time. Our last little bug adventure was to Charlene’s Tea Room. The next day I had Bunco with the Bunco girls. We rushed out after Bunco so I could go to church with her that evening. She was not going to be able to go to Sunday services because of leaving on the archaeological adventure AKA Indiana Alley. Everything was just going by at light speed. That’s how life is. If you do not enjoy the journey, you end up a very sad person. I had enjoyed this journey and I was wanting more but I knew this season was over. That’s why I was flooded with so many tears. When she left I became almost inconsolable. Unbeknownst to me she had to come back in for something and she heard me crying. She came around the corner and said, “What’s going on with you?” I just kept blubbering and crying. She washed my face, cleaned out my snoot, and let me blow my nose. She was very adult-like and told me, “You’ve got to cut this out. I’m not going to be here to wipe your nose again for a while. Big bug you need to strengthen up.” I was able to suck it up buttercup after that. God gave me a little bit of fortitude to reassure her and my little bird was off again.

I didn’t want her to stay with me, that was not why I was such a mess emotionally. I just knew nothing gold could really stay. Remember that quote students? It was the book I did at the first of the year almost every year: The Outsiders. It’s so true. Life is an ebb and flow of good times and bad and a whole lot in between. The important thing is to embrace those golden times. If you didn’t embrace them then you would never cry when they were over. Students, be in the moment of your life. It was our essential rule number 55, carpe diem. This is life. This is my life. This is your life. If you do not treasure your moments, then you are missing out on so much during your earthly journey. No day is ever promised so please get out and enjoy your day. It may be the last one that you get. Yes back row, it’s homework!

Sal the Carpe Diem Gal

Sarah Anderson Alley

Quotes of the Day:

“Give the ones you love wings to fly, roots to come back and reasons to stay.”

—The Dalai Lama

“It is not what you do for your children, but what you have taught them to do for themselves, that will make them successful human beings.”

—Ann Landers

A wise parent humors the desire for independent action, so as to become the friend and advisor when his absolute rule shall cease.”

—Elizabeth Gaskell

Biking for Babies

In my mind today, I am thinking about bicycles and babies. Yes back row students the things that eat, sleep, and poop and that’s about it! Each year there is something fabulous that happens in our country. We have a group of young missionaries that ride bikes in the shape of a cross in the middle of our United States of America. They do this to spread the word about babies. It is for babies that are never given their first breath. These young missionaries have a central starting point in St. Louis, Missouri. From St. Louis, Missouri each group will ride out at the four Cardinal directions. Students, do you remember those? North, South, East, West are the directions they ride. They will ride down 800 mi and then back up for the leg that comes through our little city. Each year we are blessed enough to share a church service with them and feed them. We get to hear their stories about why they do what they do for babies. We get their background stories and we actually make friends of these wonderful missionaries.

After the church service, we share a meal with them. The missionaries will then spread out and sit with different tables to talk about the journey and their mission. This year the missionary that sat with me was named Mary. You may think it’s ironic but I am getting used to the way God works in my life. This beautiful young lady is on fire for God and for the fragile lives that are taken away each year because of abortions. I know that people want to be the boss of their own bodies. After all God has given them free will to do as they please for their body but here’s the rub. Whenever someone becomes pregnant there is another soul living within them. Another body entirely to its own and this is the way God created us to reproduce. Do pregnancies always come at the best times? Do some pregnancies come at the hands of violence? Yes and yes. Who has the authority to choose if life is granted to go forward? If that life is to come into a world and take a breath, who decides if it could go forward into this world? Should we have the choice to take a life, a soul. Yes I know that there are so many children that are born to such grievous situations. I know that our society is not equipping single mothers with everything they need, especially holding the father’s accountable. I just know that thou shalt not kill is a grievance against God. I also know that many who do have abortions suffer lots of mental anguish and are changed forever after the decision has been carried out. I also know that minorities get more abortions than any other demographic in the United States. The adoption system in this country is broken. The rights of children are nonexistent, especially unborn children. Should a law that is part of our government give the right to kill? No. I repeat it over and over No! If that child is unborn or if that child is in prison from being raised from a broken home the answer is still no. Taking a life is not what I want to be a part of and I hope you feel the same. There are lots of things that need to be fixed in our country and this is one of them. It should not be legal to have an abortion or to kill someone on death row. We have to look for better options. In the huge court case Roe versus Wade even the woman that started the whole ball rolling regretted it. She regretted the whole business. Something within her stirred. I know what the something was. Do you? We are at a point in this country that we need to make changes for the good. This law has absolutely splintered our country and I want you to call your congressmen and women and ask them to get rid of anything political that is for abortions or the death penalty. Life is given and who are we to take it?

As Mary shared her story with us, this blog was forming in my mind. I want you to think about King Herod. I want you to think about after he realized a new king was amongst us and had been born. He sent out legislation to kill all boys 2 years old and under. In the Catholic Church we call this the slaughtering of the innocents. It is commemorated in our calendar each year as we pray for those that have died before us. Each year as we think about this travesty, I weep. I weep for the unborn. I weep for those born into horrible situations. I weep for those children who are among me that need so much love. I weep for my country who has gone so astray from God. Today’s students if you want to know what your homework is, here it is: pray to end legal abortion in our country and pray to end the death penalty. If you want to know more about biking for babies, I will leave a link for you. Please join me in our efforts to build God’s kingdom here. How so very blessed are we here in my little corner of West Tennessee to be pro-life. Thanks be to God for Life Choices and Lifebeats here to help the most vulnerable around us in West Tennessee.

Sarah Anderson Alley

Sal the Baby Loving Gal

https://bikingforbabies.com/

Quotes for the Day:

I’ve noticed that everyone who is for abortion has already been born.

Ronald Reagan

It is a poverty to decide that a child must die so that you may live as you wish.

Mother Theresa of Calcutta

I feel the greatest destroyer of peace today is ‘Abortion’, because it is a war against the child… A direct killing of the innocent child, ‘Murder’ by the mother herself… And if we can accept that a mother can kill even her own child, how can we tell other people not to kill one another? How do we persuade a woman not to have an abortion? As always, we must persuade her with love… And we remind ourselves that love means to be willing to give until it hurts

Mother Theresa 

It seems to me as clear as daylight that abortion would be a crime.

Mahatma Gandhi

In my world you don’t get to call yourself “pro-life” and be against common-sense gun control — like banning public access to the kind of semiautomatic assault rifle, designed for warfare, that was used recently in a Colorado theater. You don’t get to call yourself “pro-life” and want to shut down the Environmental Protection Agency, which ensures clean air and clean water, prevents childhood asthma, preserves biodiversity and combats climate change that could disrupt every life on the planet. You don’t get to call yourself “pro-life” and oppose programs like Head Start that provide basic education, health and nutrition for the most disadvantaged children…The term “pro-life” should be a shorthand for respect for the sanctity of life. But I will not let that label apply to people for whom sanctity for life begins at conception and ends at birth. What about the rest of life? Respect for the sanctity of life, if you believe that it begins at conception, cannot end at birth.

Thomas L. Friedman