Welcome to the blog of author Marlo Schalesky!

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Fight, Flight, or ... A Better Way to Face Fear

Hi Friends,

Here is one of the stories I love sharing with the kids who come out to our Ranch. Many live in places where fear is a part of life. Some can't even go outside their apartments to play for fear of being caught in a gang shooting. Some have escaped abusive environments and now live in foster homes. Some don't have any homes at all. But for all of us, me included, fear is a poor decision-maker. It leads us to foolish choices and dangerous decisions. This story reminds me that God is a much better decision-maker and trust in him, even and especially in the scariest circumstances, leads to wisdom.

Here's what happened at Wonder Wood Ranch a few years ago:

It was such a normal morning.  Quiet.  Boring, as I walked out to feed our two horses.  The air was crisp, the sun just peeking over the pines, the grass still sparkling with dew.  A regular morning.  Calm, uneventful . . . until I turned a corner and saw the horses’ pens.
            I stopped.  There, one of the heavy-gauge metal panels lay twisted and on its side.  The metal bars were bent and torn.  I ran forward. 
            The horse was gone.
            A moment later, I reached the smashed up mess that had been part of the horse pen.  Chunks of palomino fur lay on the dirt, the only remnants of the 1,300 pound gelding who had somehow crumbled the thick metal and escaped. 
            I glanced at our other horse.  She stood inside her pen trembling, her nostrils flared with fierce snorts. 
            “What’s wrong, girl?  Where’s Biscuit?”  I strove to keep the panic from my voice.
            She snorted some more, then raced around her pen and stared up into the hills. 
            I jogged around the pen to the far side.  I looked up into the hills.  And saw nothing.  I peered into the trees to the left.  Nothing.  Down the road.  Nothing. 
            Then I looked down.
            And understood.
           There, clearly pressed in the mud, were two huge paw prints.  Cat paws.  And next to them were two sets of smaller prints.  I shivered.  Mountain lions.  No wonder the horses were scared. 
            I bent lower and tracked the prints.  The cats, a mama and a couple cubs, had come down the hill and stopped fifteen feet outside the mare’s pen.  Then, according to the prints, they turned around and ran back into the brush.  They didn’t enter the pens or harm the horses.  They just stood there, then ran away.
            But that was enough for Biscuit.  Enough to drive him wild with fear.  To cause him to climb out of his pen and smash up the metal panel as he went.  Enough to make him run away from food, from shelter, from the ones who cared for him.
            We spent the rest of the day searching for our missing horse (and replacing the broken panel).  Hours later, we found Biscuit.  In the middle of the night, he had run off in a direction he’d never been before.  He’d traveled almost a mile down dangerous two-lane road, crossed it, then found his way to a barbed wire pasture.  He could have been hit, gotten cut, or been killed.  He hadn’t drunk any water, eaten anything but some snatches of grass, and had long tears where his back legs scraped against the metal fence. 
            As I led him back to his pen, to water, to food, to shelter, to safety, I thought about what drove him to escape.  Fear did that.  Simple, primitive, instinctual fear.  The mountain lion and her cubs hadn’t endangered him at all.  It was the escape that put him in real danger.
            And I wondered if fear does the same thing to me.  Something scary appears on the horizon of my life.  Maybe it doesn’t actually threaten me, or come into my space.  I just catch a whiff of it in the air, see a bit of tawny fur on the outskirts of my vision.  I see the possibilities, sense what could happen if the lion attacks.
            How easy it is in those circumstances to run, to panic, to do things that don’t make sense.  Fear is like that.  It can tempt me to hurt myself, put myself in danger, leave the place where I am fed and cared for.  Instead of trusting God’s care, I, too, want to scrape and scrabble, fend for myself, throw myself into desperate acts to get away from the thing that scares me.  And in doing so, I put myself in the worst danger of all.
            Maybe that’s why the command to not be afraid appears more than three hundred times in the Bible.  Hebrews 13:6 (NIV) tells how to respond when fear comes out of the hills and stares at us with yellow eyes.  It says, “So we say with confidence, ‘The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid.’"

            So, instead scrambling out of the fences in our lives and running down dangerous roads to unknown pastures, God calls us to stay calm, trust Him, and remain in his will.  He calls us not to fear the mountain lions, but to trust in the boundaries he places around us.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Can Life Be More than This?

Hi Friends,

I'm working hard (all prayers very much appreciated!) on my new book, Reaching for Wonder. This week, I'm hoping to finish the chapter on the Samaritan woman who encounters Jesus by the well of her ancestor, Jacob. Below is the longing of my heart as I read her story. Maybe it's your longing too? In Christ can there be more than, "Is it what it is"?  Pray for me, please, as I delve deeper into the wonder of this story that is resonating inside me this week!

Here's an except from my work-in-progress ...

“Come and see a man who has told me everything I’ve done!”
John 4:4-42

         It is what it is. I’ve said the phrase many times, but never with hope. Never with joy. It is an expression of deep resignation. Sometimes, it’s a saying that secretly breaks my heart.
         Does it always have to be this way? Is it really too late? Is the life I have all that life will ever become? Are my pain, my shame, iron bars of a prison cell? Or perhaps, in the hands of the Messiah, might they be the strange keys to escape?
         I bring my helplessness, my hopelessness, to the well with the Samaritan woman. I search for a thirsty man sitting by its side. I come with bucket empty and heart not daring to hope. But I come. I listen.
         I encounter my Christ in the story of another woman whose heart beat like mine, whose doubts and fears and shame had made her believe that life could never be anything more.

         And I wonder … will this stranger by Jacob’s well free me too?  Will he see me for who I truly am and still make me whole? Can my life be more than it is what it is?

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Facing the Impossible? Consider this ...

Hi Friends,

For all those facing the impossible today, here's a bit of truth, a bit of hope:

Excerpt from Waiting for Wonder:

Our God is the God of the impossible. He is the God of impossible promises.
            This is the God who said to a virgin through the angel Gabriel, “Look! You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you will name him Jesus” (Luke 1:31), and Mary conceived a son without ever having been with a man. Jesus was born.
            This is the God who provided a boatload of fish after a night when not a single one was caught (Luke 5; John 21), who calmed the storm when the disciples were certain they would drown (Mark 4), who healed a man born blind when no one had ever heard of that (John 9), who healed the incurable and drove out demons (Matt 8; Luke 17), who raised the dead (Mark 5; Luke 7; John 11).
            This is the God who promised he would “suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, chief priests, and the legal experts, and be killed, and then, after three days, rise from the dead” (Mark 8:31) And he did.
            He rose! He rose from the dead to defeat death. He rose so that every other impossible promise could come true. He rose and now nothing else can ever be impossible. Now we can live in these impossible promises:

·      I myself will be with you every day until the end of this present age. (Matt 28:20)
·      I will never leave you or abandon you. (Heb 13:5)
·      The one who started a good work in you will stay with you to complete the job by the day of Christ Jesus. (Phil 1:6)
·      My yoke is easy to bear, and my burden is light. (Matt 11:30)
·      Whoever drinks from the water that I will give will never be thirsty again. The water that I give will become in those who drink it a spring of water that bubbles up into eternal life. (John 14:4)
·      Ask, and you will receive. Search, and you will find. Knock, and the door will be opened to you. (Matt 7:7)
·      When I go to prepare a place for you, I will return and take you to be with me so that where I am you will be too. (John 14:3)
·      And all who have left houses, brothers, sisters, father, mother, children, or farms because of my name will receive one hundred times more and will inherit eternal life. (Matt 19:29)
·      God is faithful. He won’t allow you to be tempted beyond your abilities. Instead, with the temptation, God will also supply a way out so that you will be able to endure it. (1 Cor 10:13)
·      I assure you, whoever believes has eternal life. (John 6:47)
And so many, many more.
            Go ahead and laugh. It’s okay. But it’s even better to step out of your tent and go to him with your doubts, your discouragement, your fear of being disappointed yet again.
            Come, and believe this God of the impossible.

Jesus looked at them carefully and said,
“It’s impossible for human beings. But all things are possible for God.”

Matthew 19:26

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Hope for the Waiting Place

Hi Friends,

Today I wanted to share an except from Waiting for Wonder for anyone who finds themselves in the Waiting Place. When it seems as if nothing is changing despite prayer; when life seems stuck in a painful place, when it feels like God is absent and silent ...


There is something about waiting with our God. He is the God of waiting. Waiting is hard, but somehow it’s what God asks of us.
            Daniel and the exiles in Babylon were promised they would return to the land of Israel. They waited seven decades. A lifetime. In Babylon, Daniel served four foreign kings who believed themselves equal with God. His friends were thrown into the fire; he was thrown into a den of lions. He remained in exile. Daniel learned to wait.
            Mary received the promise about her son from the lips of an angel. It took over thirty years for that son even to begin his public ministry. All that time she waited with the promises of an angel still unfulfilled. Waited, while nothing happened. No Roman overthrow, no popularity, no growing force. Even his ministry looked nothing like what she may have expected. Mary learned to wait.
            Jesus’ followers received the promise of his return. They expected him to come in their lifetimes. But even through persecution, Roman arenas, and the stoning of saints, Jesus did not return. They died waiting for his promise to be fulfilled. We still wait.
            We wait decades, centuries, millennia.
            Because for our God, time is not a constraint. This is the God about whom the psalmist said, “In your perspective a thousand years are like yesterday past, like a short period during the night watch” (Ps 90:4) and Peter wrote, “Don’t let it escape your notice, dear friends, that with the Lord a single day is like a thousand years and a thousand years are like a single day” (2 Pet 3:8). 
            He is the God of the wait. He is the God who calls us to wait in faith. He says to us:

Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord. (Psalm 27:14)
We wait in hope for the Lord; he is our help and our shield. (Psalm 33:20)
Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him (Psalm 37:7)
It is good to wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord. (Lamentations 3:26)

            When hope seems gone. When ten years have passed in Canaan and there is no promised son. When the cold, empty chill of desperation becomes a heavy weight in your gut, remember that time is God’s servant. He holds it in his hands.

The Lord is waiting to be merciful to you,
    and will rise up to show you compassion.
The Lord is a God of justice;
    happy are all who wait for him.
Isaiah 30:18