Crosses

Whew! Crosses!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Won’t You Be My Neighbor?

Won’t You Be My Neighbor?

“Lord, help me overcome my biases. I want to be able to see you in every person I meet.”

As I read my devotional this morning, I smiled thinking of the message. I remembered as a child watching the PBS program Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood and singing along. Decades later I would watch the show with my children. Of my children, Ian liked it the most. I chuckle when I visit that time in my mind. I still hear him saying as a toddler, “Momma, I want to play the piano (he pronounced it pee-an-do with all long vowels of course) like Mr. Rogers when I grow up.” I thank God for these precious memories of my children. I thank God for those messages that helped shape me as a child.

After reading the parable of the Good Samaritan, I realized the relevance of it in our modern lives. Today, I think we can substitute Samaritan and Jew for many disgruntled “neighbors.” Here’s the shortlist: Republican vs. Democrat, Muslim vs. Christianity, Jew vs. Muslim, Pro-life vs. ProChoice, Gay vs. Straight, Catholic vs. Protestant, & Black vs. White. Whew! I could add more but you get the idea. Would you care for your neighbor like the Samaritan did? Would you use your arms to hold this dying adversary? Could you open your mouth to give a kind word? How about untying your purse strings to give a meal to a starving foe? Use your body to shield them from hateful slurs and threats? Or do we continue to be consumed by hate believing that they deserve to be chastised and hurt? See. We are all called to be a “Good Samaritan.” I hear my back row students squirming in their seats. It is very hard to love those who hate and persecute you.

In this present time our lives are so influenced with confusing messages like “If it feels good, do it” or “It’s all about me #YOLO.” It’s true we only have one earthly life to live. Sadly, those who choose to act morally are often chided in our culture for their weaknesses. They don’t fit in to the popular social circles. After reading the scriptures about the parable of the Good Samaritan, I felt nudged to implore you to find a way to help that wounded person on your life path. We all have at least one person we can choose to help. Imagine if we all encouraged one person a day for a year. Wow! Today, seek out a neighbor to love and serve. Let’s make the most of this beautiful day!

Sarah Anderson Alley
Sal the Neighbor Loving Gal

Quotes of the Day by Mr. Rogers:

“When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, “Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.”

“Love isn’t a state of perfect caring. It is an active noun like “struggle.” To love someone is to strive to accept that person exactly the way he or she is, right here and now.”

“If you could only sense how important you are to the lives of those you meet; how important you can be to the people you may never even dream of.”

“There is something of yourself that you leave at every meeting with another person.”

“We live in a world in which we need to share responsibility. It’s easy to say “It’s not my child, not my community, not my world, not my problem.”

“Then there are those who see the need and respond. I consider those people my heroes.”

Turn, Turn, Turn

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

 

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

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

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

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

Quotes of the Day:

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

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

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

Flourish

Your faith flourishes ever more. (2 Thessalonians 1:3)

The past two weeks have been valleys. I trudged through them and at some points begged for an end to my time here. The struggles of my family to care for me and the expense medically to be here weighed on me. Where was my faith in these dark moments? It was in my tired heart and ready for the next chapter filled with an anticipation of rest and peace. Have you ever felt this way? In my fever and pain, someone whispered, “Your job is not finished. Take heart.”

So after a trip to the ER and heavy doses of antibiotics, I continue to roll on as the to do list lengthens as I type. I have been thrown a few curves, but God has straightened my path once again.

My to do list additions have me excited and eager to allow my faith to flourish. My religious class on Sundays for teens is overflowing. I have painting with friends to do for a display at the library for October: Art for ALS. I’ve accepted a Vice President position for the local Matthew 25:40 in hopes of growing the program to reach the children suffering from abuse and neglect in our community. The annual Autumn March fundraising and organization is in full swing and just around the corner. There’s so much reading, praying, and writing to do. Last but not least, I have a grandson coming in February. My cup overflows and my faith continues to flourish in the plans God has for my life, my children, my community, and our world. Please don’t lose heart. If you are still here like me, there is work to be done. The day will come when our earthly journey is complete. All questions will be answered and mysteries revealed. What a day of rejoicing indeed. Meanwhile, feed your Faith and watch it flourish.

Sarah Anderson Alley
Sal the Flourishing Gal

Quotes of the Day:

“You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it rests in you”
St. Augustine

This reminds me of the world that we live in today:
“Not in riots and drunken parties, not in eroticism and indecencies, not in strife and rivalry, but put on the Lord Jesus Christ and make no provision for the flesh in its lusts” (Romans 13:13-14)

“Our culture is so corrupt, but I know we can overcome fleeting distractions by filling our heart with the eternal goodness of God.”
Sal

Please pray with me:
God help our morality to strengthen not wither. Help us to be lovers of good for the future of all children. Please help those with restless hearts searching for pleasure in addictions, money, material possessions, and social status. Reach out to them and give them the bread of life and cup of salvation.
Amen

Choices

We all have choices. These are what shape our lives. As a teenager: Do we avoid the happening parties of our youth because we want to keep ourselves from smoking pot or drinking underage? Do we risk our reputation of being cool? Do we risk awakening a demon of addiction to fit in with the popular clique? Do we trade sex in hopes of receiving love? Do we miss a social gathering to complete important assignments? Do we sleep in or go to church on Sunday? Do we text and drive? Do we study? Do we complete our assignments? Do we cheat on tests and homework? Do we skip school? Do we embrace others or snub them? Being a teenager is so hard. Making good choices are not at all popular if you want to be popular. I didn’t always make the best choices in my youth but thanks be to God I came it on the other side alive without an addiction problem and wiser. Some of my peers weren’t so lucky. Choices.

As an adult, choices are imminent. Do I go to college or a trade school? Do I go to work? Do I have children? Do I get married? Do I put God at the center of my life or what I desire: sex, partying, money, materialism, work, or myself? Do I pay my bills? Do I live off of welfare or cheat the system? Do I choose to be lazy and blame the government for my problems? Do I blame my choices on my parents because of being emotionally, physically, sexually abused, or being neglected as a child? Do I blame God? Do I blame choosing my vices over good on everything and everyone but myself? Choices.

We have choices. We can control them. It’s called free will. As a child we are exposed to choices of our guardians but one day those choices become our own. Do we choose drugs? Unprotected sex? A government check instead of working? Handouts? Being a deadbeat parent? Do we choose the opposite of what we endured or go with the flow and repeat history? It is so very hard. The cycles of poverty, abuse, and addiction are rampant. Wherever you are on your life-walk you have choices. Each one is crucial. At the center of your life should be your morals and beliefs. If those are focused on a God of Love, your choices will be clarified. We all crave to love and be loved. We want to choose happiness and to be happy. The first step towards this is to make good choices. The choice is yours.

Sarah Anderson Alley
Sal the Make Good Choices Gal

Dedicated to the Class of 2019

Quote of the Day:
“Choices are the hinges of destiny.”
Edwin Markham

Dust

Last week the verse “And whoever shall not receive you, nor hear your words, when you depart out of that house or city, shake off the dust of your feet.” haunted me. I tried to interpret it into my own being. I have this flaw within me that wants to help and give until it becomes unhealthy. I have members of my family and friends that have addiction problems. Sadly, today this is not an exception. Many of you reading this are no stranger to drug addiction and it’s horrible consequences.

Too many children in our society are orphans because of this rampant epidemic. Drugs just hollow out a person. It takes their heart and leaves a selfish, insatiable shell. As a former teacher, I have seen so many children altered by this current epidemic. The neglect is rampant. The emotional abuse cuts so deep. Face it America, our family system is shattered. The children are lost in this shrapnel. The cycle of poverty is growing exponentially. When do we shake the dust from our feet?

I love working with children at our local library. There is a huge building beside it. This building stood for sale a long time. When I would go to the library, I always envisioned a safe house for children. A place they could show up on the doorstep and find immunity from their chaotic lives. A place where they could have a warm meal, a clean bed, and quiet place to read and study away from the drama of the world of addiction. You know going home from school hungry with only dry cereal to live on and no adult there to ask you about your day. Taking care of younger siblings while riffraff comes in and out of your house at all hours. Trying your best to avoid sexual predators. Surviving. I can’t tell you how many times I wanted to take children home with me and give them the nurturing and love they deserved. To provide a place for them to thrive and grow and crush the cycle of poverty. The building has been bought and someone is renovating it. Such a dream.

When do we shake the dust and move on from those who continue to choose evil? We give them love, resources, and shelter but are we giving them God? Are we enabling bad choices at the cost of the lives of children? I think we are. These children are feral without any moral and spiritual guidance. Faith without works is empty but don’t you also believe works without faith is just as futile? These things haunt my thoughts. Money, nice clothes, and food don’t remedy the deep rooted issue we are facing. It’s a heart problem. Hearts of children harden by the minute because of this cycle.

Ironically our homily last Sunday was about “Dust.” For two weeks I had rolled the “shaking dust” verse in my mind. The priest had a beautiful message of “dusting” off our spiritual lives. There are ways for us to reach out and help be a “dust mop” to those around us. We need to not be scared to lend a hand and give hugs. Time is short. It helped me realize that although sometimes our love falls on deaf ears we need to shake off the dust and let some go, dust never sleeps. America has layers of dust and I need to move on with my mop to find new areas of need. If we all did our dusting, we could make America shine again.

Sarah Anderson Alley
Sal the Dust Hating Gal

Quote of the Day:

“The purpose of art is washing the dust of daily life off our souls.”
Pablo Picasso

Thorns

IMG_5521

In my thoughts today I’m reminded of thorns. Thorns come in all shapes and sizes to the human existence. We have emotional, mental, spiritual, and physical thorns to deal with all throughout our lives.

Summer is the time of relaxing, holidays with family, and lazy days. I’ve had some wonderful lazy days this summer. I haven’t written as much but I’m reading a lot. The mornings are spent reading and studying. This particular morning I read: A thorn in the flesh . . . (2 Corinthians 12:7). I feel ya Paul. Oy vey the thorns already. In this beautiful season there are thorns growing rapidly in the gardens of our hearts. God help us.

Thorns are not always so visible. Everyone can see the thorn I bear. Paul’s thorn he bore is still a mystery to us. I think that was part of the Holy Spirit’s plan. We all have some type of thorn to bear. When God doesn’t relieve Paul of his thorn, it speaks so loud to my own heart and soul. I feel God’s Grace and power and feel the Holy Spirit minding the garden of my soul. Every little thing is gonna be alright. I know that.

I’ve seen several horrific thorns as of late. Parents on meth and children suffering their parents choices. Parents separated from their new born child. People dying from incurable diseases like cancer. Thorns. I’m praying hard that God will remove these thorns. My heart literally aches within my chest when I witness such sadness.

I will embrace my thorns. I will continue to pray. I will trust His Grace is sufficient. Every prayer is answered but not always in ways we want. The plans God has supersedes anything our small minds can fathom. The answers may come to us on the other side of heaven. When your thorns become unbearable, remember the answer Paul received and take heart. It is what speaks to my heart each morning.
“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness. Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships,in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”
Embrace your thorns and be glad.

Sal the Thorn Gal
Sarah Anderson Alley

Quotes of the Day:
“If you enjoy the fragrance of a rose, you must accept the thorns”
Issac Hayes

“Life is thickly sown with thorns, and I know no other remedy than to pass quickly through them. The longer we dwell on our misfortunes, the greater is their power to harm us.”
Voltaire

“Truths and roses have thorns about them.”
Henry David Thoreau

“Although the life of a person is in a land full of thorns and weeds, there is always a space in which the good seed can grow. You have to trust God.”
Pope Francis