Choose life!

In my mind today I am thinking about life. Last Sunday was the first Sunday of Lent. Last Wednesday was Ash Wednesday: the day we remember that we will return to dust. Life on this Earth is so short. This is why it is vital to choose life. How do we get the most out of Lent, the forty days before Easter, much less life? Well students, it takes persistence, patience, time, and humility. Most of all, it takes LOVE. Not the easy love but the kind of love when you come last and everyone else comes first. Easy, right? Forty days is a walk in the park, not! Now try 365 days. Arduous indeed. 

We missed the first Sunday of Lent. I absolutely hate to miss church on Sundays. This day has always been reserved as a Family Day for us. Church is the best part.  It is the place that helps makes everything make sense.  It reminds us of who we are and what our job is in the world. It is where I feel peace. My soul gets refreshed. 

We had ventured to Rhodes College in Memphis Saturday night.  Our youngest had a choir concert. It was to begin at 7:30 and end at 9 o’clock PM. We arrived at 7:30 PM. It took us 30 minutes to get into the building. This is just the way life is for us now. Between ALS, dragging oxygen tanks, and anxiety attacks, it was miraculous that we made it.  I have to forget that I am a girl in a wheelchair with ALS. I know this does not make sense but it’s true. Whenever my husband gets in trouble I turn into Wonder Woman in a wheelchair! I know that my superpowers come from above. I had to go and get security from campus to drive him over but hey we made it!  It is funny but my family and my friends forget that I have ALS. Which is fantastic! Others look at us wondering what in the world are these two people thinking. I am sure they think that we have escaped the nursing home. When it comes to our family, friends and especially children we choose life. We choose to take risks to be there. We choose life. We trust in God.  What is that Bible verse front row?  That’s right, if God is for us, who can be against us?

Students it is the beginning of Lent and I want you to choose life. I want you to help others choose life.  Instead of giving up something frivolous, choose action. Try to give of yourself. Here is a precept for you: Matthew 25:37-40 “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?40 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.

 It is the 40 days of Lent.  What are you going to give to help others choose life? A life of sacrifice to help others is priceless. Live a life that will turn others back to God and the virtues he gave us. A life that will choose and have a just God rule over your inalienable rights not man or men. God gives and men will take. This Lent how will you choose to use your time, talent, and treasures to help others CHOOSE LIFE!

Sarah Anderson Alley 

Sal the CHOOSE LIFE Gal

Quotes of the Day:

You only love Jesus as much as the person you love the least. Dorothy Day

“In our Lenten journey towards Easter, let us remember the One who “humbled himself and became obedient unto death, even death on a cross” (Phil 2:8). During this season of conversion, let us renew our faith, draw from the “living water” of hope, and receive with open hearts the love of God, who makes us brothers and sisters in Christ.” 

Pope Francis 

“Fasting makes sense if it questions our security, and if it also leads to some benefit for others, if it helps us to cultivate the style of the Good Samaritan, who bends down to his brother in need and takes care of him. Fasting involves choosing a sober lifestyle; a way of life that does not waste, a way of life that does not “throw away”. Fasting helps us to attune our hearts to the essential and to sharing.”

Pope Francis 

Strengths and Weaknesses

In my mind today,  I’m thinking of strengths and weaknesses.   We all have them. Right now is a very weak or difficult time for me.  Every time I move two steps forward in my home-family life, spiritual life, church life, community life, and author/writing life I am shoved three steps backwards. You notice I didn’t mention physical life. That is because God carries me and I have no worries. If physically I crumpled, I know God and what the endgame would be. Faith. 

Memento mori, students. The world is wanting us to forget this. My son who takes care of us brought this Marcus Aurelius quote to my attention. Yes, regardless of your status we all pass on from the earth.  How do you interpret this? Back row do you say YOLO?  Front row: do you say it’s best to get as much money as we can to live as long as possible in comfort? Invest well!  What about the rest of you? My husband and I are an everyday Joe and Jane. We have worked and we have invested and we have done what the world expected us to do. Guess what? No matter how you do it there is always going to be heart rendering times. 

Now that we are both retired we can begin the real work that God wants us to do. I had already started this journey up to retirement 6 years ago. ALS took my job but it didn’t take my spirit.  Students do you realize that not even the devil or God can take your will.  At first my spirit was broken, then I realized the gifts God gave me in retirement: spiritual growth, teaching high school religious class, Bible studies,  time to write and reflect, time to grow my intelligence, time to be still and know God, Turn the Page Book Club, bond with my middle child, see my Grands, and be on committees to help our little town. Now hopefully my husband can do the same and join me for our “real” Earthly work before our departure. 

Families are so complicated. At Shady Oaks Retirement Home, our house, we have “incidents.”  Some are over quickly but some of these linger and creep into our daily lives and squash our happiness for weeks.  It emotionally deflates me. It tries to deplete my spiritual life. Some days like today I hang on by a thread of hope. Hope that my children are not scarred from caring for two fragile parents. Prayers that they will see God’s work through me even though many times I am pushed to my physical limits. Trying desperately to lead by example.  Our last book club book was The Kite Runner.  I so related to the father. It made me think that we have always had prodigal sons from the beginning.  Look at the first, Lucifer.  There is a struggle in the dynamics of children with parents. There always will be on earth. This is one of the crosses of having children. As hard as we try, we can never make their lives “happy.”  That is the hardest thing for a parent. 

“Lord, be glorified in my weaknesses as well as in my strengths.”  This was my simple prayer reflection today. It inspired this blog. God knows how terribly weak we are. God also knows how terribly strong we are.  Pray today for God to help us persevere THROUGH our weaknesses and to provide strength to do “the real work” in our Earthly journey.  Happy snow day students!

Sarah Anderson Alley 

Sal the Do the Work Gal

Quotes of the Day:

“When you retire, that is when your real work begins.”

George Hirtz

“Life is not easy for any of us. But what of that? We must have perseverance and above all confidence in ourselves. We must believe that we are gifted for something and that this thing must be attained.”

Marie Curie

“Perseverance, secret of all triumphs.”

Victor Hugo

“Football is like life – it requires perseverance, self-denial, hard work, sacrifice, dedication and respect for authority.”

Vince Lombardi 

“Accept the things to which fate binds you, and love the people with whom fate brings you together, but do so with all your heart.”

“When you wake up in the morning, tell yourself: the people I deal with today will be meddling, ungrateful, arrogant, dishonest, jealous and surly. They are like this because they can’t tell good from evil. But I have seen the beauty of good, and the ugliness of evil, and have recognized that the wrongdoer has a nature related to my own – not of the same blood and birth, but the same mind, and possessing a share of the divine. And so none of them can hurt me. No one can implicate me in ugliness. Nor can I feel angry at my relative, or hate him. We were born to work together like feet, hands and eyes, like the two rows of teeth, upper and lower. To obstruct each other is unnatural. To feel anger at someone, to turn your back on him: these are unnatural.”

Marcus Aurelius

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/