Welcome to the blog of author Marlo Schalesky!

Tuesday, January 5, 2021

Got Fear? Two Wild Horses Teach Trust

Hi Friends,


I'm thinking a lot about trust these days. On Saturday, I officiated a wedding for a couple who was in my young adult college group a couple years ago. It was a beautiful wedding, filled with the presence of God. But the next morning, the groom came down with a fever. Today, I'm waiting for their test results to come in to see if they have Covid, and so to see if I could have it too. 

Everything in the world tells me to be afraid. To be very afraid. What if I have Covid? What if I get sick? What if my family gets it? What if they get sick? What if I die?

Fear.

It seems forced on us these days. And yet . . .

Yet.

Perhaps it is time to trust God more fully, perhaps it is time to learn the lesson of two wild horses:

Two Wild Horses

 

            Two new horses. Untrained. Barely handled. I looked at the two in their stalls in my barn. Both were sweet, both had a kind eye, but one gazed back at me with trust while the other snorted with suspicion.

            I walked over and pet the mare, Cookie, who turned her head to accept my embrace. Maverick snorted again. I raised a hand slowly to touch his face over the fence. He allowed the touch, but no more.

            I sighed. A few weeks earlier we had picked both horses up from the equine rescue. My daughters wanted to train up a couple horses for the rescue so that they would be more easily adoptable. A summer project, they said. To help the horses and the rescue.

            I’d agreed. 

            So there they were, two wild horses, ready to be transformed into the animals they were meant to be.

            Weeks passed. My daughters worked diligently with both horses. The mare loved the work. She loved to have people come give her attention. She trusted her young trainers, listened carefully, and met them every day at her gate. With each new lesson, she tried to learn, endeavored to understand. She even allowed the farrier to trim her hooves and keep her feet healthy.

            The gelding wanted to please as well. He wanted to learn. But he was afraid. He stood at the back of his stall, unsure if he could trust a person enough to walk forward. What if someone hurt him? What if it went badly? What if those training him were cruel instead of kind? He tried too. He endeavored to understand. But his fears interfered with his training. He wouldn’t allow the farrier near his feet, even though they were badly in need of a trim and hurting him. So he had to endure too-long hooves with chips and cracks.

            The end of the summer drew near. The mare was already being ridden, learning reining cues and how to stop, turn, start. She had come a long way from the horse who knew nothing except that her trainer was to be trusted.

            The gelding had come a long way too. My daughters could touch him, lead him, and saddle him. But he still couldn’t be ridden. A rider scared him too much. Once, he’d kick one of my girls. Another time he’d spun and kicked out at another. And his hooves were still long and broken.

            My daughters had spent their summer simply trying to gain his trust. And they’d been able to move forward. But the horse who was able to trust had learned so much more. She was happier, healthier, and ready to accept new challenges. Fears had not held her back.

            In the end, we ended up adopting the mare. She trusted us, so we could trust her. The gelding was scheduled to go back to the rescue to be further trained and worked with until he could have his feet trimmed and learn to trust a rider.

            As I thought about those two horses, I saw that trust is key to growth. When I am like the mare, trusting God, eager for his presence and his lessons, I move forward in relationship with him with less pain and able to accept his love. I can hold still for his care and move forward with nice, trimmed toes.

            When I am like the gelding, snorting, holding back, fearful, God still works with me, loves me, trains me, but the task is more difficult and filled with unnecessary pain.

            Sometimes, like the gelding, I have good reasons for my lack of trust, lack of faith. Things in my past have hurt me, made me suspicious, cautious, and sometimes fearful. But whether I reasons or not, the results are the same. Fear hurts me. Lack of trust and faith keeps me from fully becoming who I was created to be. 

            Reasons or not, trust is better.

            Psalm 112:6-8 (NIV) tells us, “Surely the righteous will never be shaken…They will have no fear of bad news; their hearts are steadfast, trusting in the Lord. Their hearts are secure, they will have no fear…”

            So, as I stand in my barn, considering the difference between two wild horses, I know that I want to be more like Cookie, the mare. I want to dare to trust more, believe more, love more. Despite my past hurts. Despite past pain.

            I want to dare to trust the God who loves me, and let him guide me as a rider guides the horse he loves. I want a steadfast heart that trusts God without fear. 

            And I want to be his forever.

Wednesday, December 23, 2020

Thank God He Was Born in the Barn

Hi Friends,

Here are some thoughts from Wrestling with Wonder for this Christmas when for many things are not what we hope they'd be . . .

Many are traveling to Bethlehem for the census. Relatives are opening their homes, offering their guest rooms to extended family. Rooms are filling. Cousins and uncles and distant relatives are coming together in homes—until there’s no more room. No room for a carpenter from Nazareth, his very-pregnant wife, and the babe she will soon bear. Even though that babe is God’s own Son. But no one can help. Relatives sometimes let us down. So do friends. So do strangers. People don’t always step forward to make life easy. But neither Mary nor Luke places any blame or expectation on the residents of Bethlehem. And neither should we when others don’t step forward to make room for us. Because just as in Mary’s case, perhaps it is God’s will that his Son be born in a barn. Perhaps it’s God’s will that you find him anew in the strange, stinky, this-isn’t-right places of life.

            In scholarly circles, there’s much debate on what kind of animal lodging Mary went to in order to birth Jesus. We know she was with the animals because she laid him in a feeding trough. But where was the trough? Was it an animal area in the lower portion of a home with an already-crowded guest room? Was it out in the public square of town? Was it an overhang attached to a house, where animals found shelter? Was it a cave, as set forth in a tradition that can be traced back to the mid-second century? Early Christian apologist Justin Martyr, in his Dialogue with Trypho, mentions the cave, as does the Protoevangelium of James, also from the second century. Origen, in the third century, writes that the cave’s location was known, and therefore could very well be the same place where the Church of the Nativity stands today.

            Wherever Jesus was laid, we know there was a feeding trough, and that where there’s a feeding trough, there are animals. And where there are animals, there’s poop and pee and flies and dirt and noise and just plain yuck. 

            Having a baby in a barn was never part of Mary’s birthing plan. Using a feeding trough for a crib wasn’t in the plan either. Born in a barn, wrapped in rags, laid in a feeding trough ...

that was not how it was supposed to be. How could that possibly be Mary’s vision of the birth of the King of Kings? 

            It wasn’t. 

            “If we imagine that Jesus was born in a freshly swept, county fair stable, we miss the whole point. It was wretched—scandalous! There was sweat and pain and blood and cries as Mary reached up to the heavens for help, says commentator Kent Hughes.

            This birth wasn’t anything like she would have wanted or expected. It was a problem. It was all wrong. And yet, that is where she found him. That is when she first heard his cries, first held him in her arms, first encountered him in a more vivid, more wondrous way. It is here that she became the mother of the Messiah. 

            It is the same for you and me. Just like Mary, we take our first steps in becoming who we were meant to be in the far-from-perfect portions of life. In the difficulties, in the stink, in the places that are not where we want to be. Where we least expect it, where we least want to be, there the Messiah meets us. There he is revealed in new ways. In life’s stables—in the defeats, rejections, disappointments, in the screams of pain, the frustrations of labor, the sweat of trying and failing—Jesus is there. God is coming in a new way, to transform the barn into a birthplace of the King.

            So, embrace the barn ... and find the Christ born anew in the very place where life stinks.



[1] Hughes, Luke, 83.

Thursday, November 12, 2020

We Need The Fruits of the Spirit Today!

Hi Friends,

Last week on my Facebook page I shared thoughts from Women of the Bible Speak Out on the fruits of the Spirit. I was amazed at how closely the fruits mirrored what we need in our world today. So, I wanted to share the list again here with some words of encouragement that we might ponder how we can let the Holy Spirit develop these fruits in us during these tumultuous times. 

So, here ya go . . .

Love. In hope and faith, we can put the needs and well-being of others first.

Joy. For the joy set before us, we can endure, looking to Jesus for our strength and hope.

Peace. We can choose to focus on God and his faithfulness rather than the flaws and foolishness of our Nabal. We can encounter the Nabal in our lives with peace and reason rather than with angst and agitation.

Patience. We can let God take care of the outcomes and the timing. We can rest without needing to fix our husband, our boss, our father, or any other man in our life. We can cooperate with God by making wise decisions and taking wise actions. Then we can watch and wait as God moves.

Kindness. We can choose to be kind. Mean-spirited retaliation isn’t God’s way. We don’t have to give in to foolishness, but neither do we have to respond to our Nabal in a Nabal-like way. We can pursue the righteousness of God for the benefit of all, even the very one who is being unkind.

Goodness. We can do right no matter what, even when it’s scary. Even when it’s risky. We can refuse to use “submission” as an excuse to go along with the sin or foolishness of our Nabal. We can do good.

Faithfulness. We can refuse to let anyone cause us to sin. We can be faithful to God’s call in our lives. A Nabal may be terrible, abusive, “harsh and badly behaved,” but we don’t have to give him the power to destroy us by pushing us into sin. We can be loyal to Christ. We can hold fast to our integrity, not letting our Nabal destroy our faith—and if we already have allowed that, we can repent. Then we can make a different choice. Faithfulness can start today. Right now. One wise word, one courageous action at a time.

Gentleness. We can walk in gentleness instead of passivity. We can choose to not just let whatever happens happen, without care or prayer. Rather, we can walk in the ways of God, especially when everything in us wants to walk in the ways of either apathy or anger and retaliation—to give up and give in or to yell back, accuse, condemn, spew words of hate, and take revenge. Instead, we can gently pursue God’s will in all areas of our lives.

Self-control. We can choose self-control over self-seeking. We can practice the discipline of doing right so we don’t give in to the impulse of getting back at Nabal or cringing away in fear. Self-control empowers us to seek God, and to remember who we are. We are beloved children. We are daughters of the King. We are the bride of Christ.

Wednesday, October 28, 2020

Don't Score for the Opposing Team

Hi Friends,

In case you missed it, here's the link for the article on me and Wonder Wood Ranch that came out this week. God to https://plannedgiving.com and click on the "cover story" link.

And here are some thoughts from my study of Nehemiah 5 and devoting ourselves to the work of God, especially during these tumultuous times . . .

I have one clear memory from my eighth grade basketball season. We were playing in a tournament in Lake Tahoe, an hour and a half from my hometown. The game was well underway, the score nearly even, with an important win hanging in the balance. The other team controlled a jump-ball when my teammate made a brilliant steal at half court and took off dribbling toward the basket. We all shouted and screamed. She executed a perfect layup and scored two points … for the opposing team. Somehow, that one basket seemed worse than all the others scored by our rivals. 

 

In Nehemiah, the Israelites were engaged in more than a simple basketball game; they were in a fight for their lives, for the restoration of the very identity of their people and homeland. They were in a battle for the city of God.

 

In previous chapters, Nehemiah outlined the opposition coming from outsiders such as Sanballat, Tobiah, the Arabs, the Ammonites and the people of Ashdod. In chapter 5, he turns the lens inward to expose the opposition coming from within their own ranks. The nobles and officials were scoring for the opposing team! 

 

The very people who were supposed to be the team’s strongest players were instead undermining their teammates by charging interest on loans, a practice clearly forbidden by God in the Pentateuch (see Exodus 22, Leviticus 25, and Deuteronomy 23). 

 

Interest, or usury, could be charged to foreigners, but not to “a fellow Israelite.” Jews were always supposed to be one people, working together to honor God and be holy, to be set apart for God’s purposes. They were to be His team. God intended, and still intends, for his people to build each other up, to support each other, to make the team stronger as a whole as they work for the win, together. They were not to make their own position stronger by making their fellow Jews weaker. 

 

The Israelites of Nehemiah’s day couldn’t win that way. And we can’t either.  We too have a bigger goal, a bigger vision, than simply making ourselves richer, than securing our personal position in life.  Nehemiah was leading the team effort to rebuild the wall of Jerusalem. Today, Jesus leads his church in the team effort of building the kingdom of God.  Nehemiah could not afford points scored for the opposing team. And neither can we.  We cannot use the plight of others, their struggles, their weaknesses, to our own advantage. 

 

We must be like Nehemiah, we must instead devote ourselves to the work (see v. 16), not taking advantage of even that which is due us.  God placed Nehemiah in leadership over the rebuilding of the wall because Nehemiah knew what it meant to strengthen the team instead of just himself. Perhaps God has placed me, and you, in our positions so that we too may build up our team and accomplish greater goals for the Kingdom of God. In everything we do, we need to make sure we are running toward the right basket.

Sunday, October 11, 2020

TCT Today Link and Banjo Tribute

Hi Friends,

A couple things today ...

If you missed my TV interview on TCT Today, you can find the archived program here:

https://watch.tct.tv/tct-today/videos/ttod7891

I hope you'll watch it and be encouraged to love Jesus more deeply, see Him more clearly, and find a more vibrant joy in the One who loves you passionately!

I also wanted to share a little story of how our cat, Banjo, (who passed away at 20 years old last week) came to us and helped us to be faithful in prayer . . . 

 


Tapping on the Window to Heaven 

 

Rat tat tat.  A muffled tapping reverberated from the windowpane beside my office desk.  I stood, and the sound stopped.  Slowly, I reached for the shade.  Before I could reach it - Thump, thump, thump. 

“Who’s there?”  My whispered hiss dissolved in the night.

            Silence answered, followed again by the insistent rapping. 

            I took a deep breath, lifted the corner of the shade, and peeked outside.  Round, green eyes peered back at me.  I dropped the shade.  

“Bryan, you aren’t going to believe this.”  

Bryan sauntered in from the other room.  

This time, I pulled up the shade all the way to reveal a gray, furry face lit by the glow of my office lamp.  “Meow.”  The cat blinked, then batted his paw against the glass again.  

Bryan stepped closer.  “Whose cat is that?”

I shrugged my shoulders.  “I’ve never seen him before.”

We contemplated the cat.  

The cat contemplated us.

I glanced at Bryan. “I think he’s hungry.”  

He crossed his arms.  “You know we can’t --”

“I know.”  I sighed.  We had plenty of stray cats crossing our property, so we knew that unless we wanted a cat farm, we’d better not put out any food.  But then, none of those cats had ever come knocking at the window. 

“Meow.”  The cat rubbed his cheek against the window then squished his nose against the pane. 

I walked toward the door and opened it.  

A moment later, Bryan appeared behind me.  “Here.”  He held up an opened can of tuna.  

I grinned, took the can, and set it down on the porch.  

The next morning, we opened the door to find the cat curled in a ball on the doormat.  

Bryan shook his head.  “Well, it looks like we have a pet cat.”  

“You don’t like cats.”

“I know.”

We stood for a moment in silence.

“Let’s name him Banjo.”

I smiled.  “Okay.”

Bryan opened the door, and the cat trotted in like he’d been doing it for years.

In Matthew 7:7 (NIV), Jesus says, “Ask and it will be given to you, seek and you will find, knock and the door will be opened to you.”  I’ve always been caught up in the idea that sometimes I’ve asked God and I’ve not received what I’ve asked for.  But Banjo has given me new insight into the verse.  

Unlike the other cats on our property, Banjo took a risk because he was hungry, for food and for love.  He decided to try, to persist, to not give up.  He knocked on the window until someone came, until I went out and met his need.  

To us, Banjo was just a stray cat.  To God, I’m a beloved child.  So, if I respond to Banjo’s bold persistence, how much more will God respond to me, whom he loves.  

And just like Banjo, I may not get exactly want I’m wanting – after all, if Banjo had his way, he’d curl up on our bed and make it his own.  But, while we sometimes let him in, we’ve decided he’s better as an outdoor cat.  He still bats at the window whenever he wants food, or attention.  And we still feed him, play with him, and call him our own.  We’ve gotten him a collar with his name, a little house to sleep in outside, a food bowl and a water dish.  He’s our cat now, and we make sure that even though he may not get everything he wants, he has everything he needs.  

These days, when I feel like giving up in prayer, when I’m tempted to think that God doesn’t care, I remember Banjo’s furry face pressed against the windowpane. And I remind myself that God will feed me, will give me what I need in him, and more importantly, welcomes me into his loving family.  So, when I’m cold, hungry, and it’s dark outside, I’m going to keep knocking on the window to heaven and meowing my heart to God.

Wednesday, September 30, 2020

Politics Getting Your Down? Here's Hope!

Hi Friends,

After watching most of the US Presidential debate on Tuesday, I found myself discouraged, troubled in spirit, and feeling just, well, yucky. What a mess! Is there any hope?! Is there any chance for truth, for decency, for ... love? 

I didn't think so, or at least I didn't feel so. But then I remembered this little story about fog and faith that happened years ago. The dense and ugly fog of politics may have obscured the view of truth, decency, love ... but that doesn't mean those things aren't there. They ARE there. They are there in Jesus, just as strong as ever. And they are there in you and in me as we choose to follow the way of truth and real, action-love, God's love. 

Clearly (pun intended!), government and politicians doing politics, are not the answer. They won't save us. You and I, continuing to believe, to stick determinedly to love and truth, to follow God's call to love him and others with abandon, with everything in us ... we are the ones who will bring hope and beauty, love and light, into this depressing, debilitating fog. 

Together, believing in the wonder of God, living out the invitation of his love, we can do what government and politics cannot. Together, no name-calling, no hate, no considering those "other side" as enemies that must be defeated at all costs, we can be the light that burns away the fog so that the hurting can see and be lifted by the true Light who loves them enough to sacrifice himself. 

So, don't believe the lies of the fog! Love is still there. Beauty is still there. Decency and truth still exist. And YOU are loved enough that God Himself is calling you to rise above and glow with the light of His love.

Here is the story that inspired these thoughts in my today, and gave me a renewed hope . . .

OF FOG AND FAITH

 


On some days, I can almost glimpse eternity.  It stretches outside my new office window, reaching down the green valley lined with oaks, touching the distant, snow-frosted mountains.  On those days, I gaze out over the tall Monterey pines and search out that special place where sky meets earth in a blaze of blue glory.  And I know that God is real, that He created all this beauty, and that He shares it with me because He loves me.  On those days, I have no doubts, no questions, no fear.

This day, however, was not one of those days.  I could see no mountains, no valley.  Even the tops of pines were blotted from my view.  Instead, fog laced through the bottom branches and swirled in thick ripples across the ground.  Grayness pressed against my window and formed tiny water droplets on the glass.  It covered the mountains, masked the oaks, camouflaged the pines.  I sat at my desk and peered out into the day, and saw nothing but waves of thick fog.

I sighed and dialed in to check my email.

“So, how do you like your new office?”  My husband’s voice sounded from the doorway behind me.

I turned and smiled at him.  “I love it.  And the view out this window is incredible.  You ought to see it.”

Bryan strode through the door and leaned against the windowsill.  His eyes narrowed.  “You’re kidding, right?”

“No, really.  Oaks and pines, and snow-tipped mountains kissing the sky.”

Bryan’s eyebrows rose to his hairline.  “Very poetic, but it looks like a bunch of fog to me.”  His voice lowered to a mutter.  “Snow-kissed mountains.  Yeah, right.”

I sat back in my chair and crossed my arms over my chest.  “You’ll just have to take my word for it.  On a clear day . . . wow, you can see forever.”

Bryan shrugged his shoulders.  “If you say so.”  He dropped a handful of mail onto my desk, then turned and left.

In the moments that followed, I shuffled through the mail then allowed my gaze to again travel out the window.  The fog wouldn’t lift today.  And maybe not tomorrow.  It could be days, I knew, before I caught sight of the mountains or valley again.  But the vision of snow-topped mountains and the deep green of the valley oaks remained fixed in my mind.  I knew the mountains were out there, even though I couldn’t see them.  I trusted that the trees remained as green and beautiful, even when they were lost to my sight.

As I sat and listened to the silence tangle with the fog outside, I was reminded of the Bible’s definition of faith.  Hebrews 11:1 (NIV) says, “Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.”

I used to live as if faith was seeing the mountains.  I believed that if I only had enough faith, I would see God clearly, I would always know what He wants, I wouldn’t have any doubts, any questions.  There would never be any fog.

But these days, I see faith differently.  Faith, I’ve come to believe, doesn’t dispel the fog, but is found within it.  Faith isn’t about seeing the mountains.  It’s about believing they are there when all my senses deny it.  It’s about believing in that spot of blue glory when all I see is the persistent grayness.  

There are times when I wonder if God really loves me, when hurt and confusion press against the window of my soul, when doubts creep in and twine around my thoughts as surely as the fog twists through the trees.  That’s when faith flourishes.  As surely as I can say I know the mountains and oaks and pines are there, even though I can’t see them, so I can say, I know God loves me even though I can’t see it now.  I know that I am His and that He died for me.  I choose to believe what I cannot see.  For faith is not seeing, but believing, even in the fog.  Especially in the fog.

Wednesday, September 16, 2020

Even Roosters Can Work Together! Can We??

 Hi Friends,


Today I wanted to share a story that I hope will encourage us to stop looking at others as our enemies and instead work toward unity to protect others and care for the weak. See what you think!

Dogs in the Chicken Coop

 


 “Mom!” 

I knew by the intensity of the shriek that something was very wrong. My six-year-old never screamed like that. She came bursting through my office door. “Mom! Help! Come quick!”

I leapt from my chair. “What’s wrong?”

She started to sob as she spoke. “The dogs are in the chicken coop. I couldn’t get them out.”

I ran for the door. She ran after me. 

“They pushed past me when I went in. I couldn’t get them out. Hurry!”

I was hurrying. I was sprinting out the front door, up the driveway, back toward the coop.

“Moooommmmmyyyy! They’re going to kill all the chickens!” 

Probably.

But I wouldn’t say that out loud. Instead, I just ran as fast as I could.

When I reached the coop, I burst inside. The hens were squawking high up in the coop while our white rooster flapped his wings at the two dogs and the red rooster lay, motionless, on the coop floor.

The two little dogs barked ferociously at the red rooster.

Oh no. Buffalo, the red rooster, was the favorite of all the kids.

I grabbed the two dogs and tossed them from the coop. They wagged their tails and scratched at the door to get back in. I ignored them.

Instead I knelt beside Buffalo, fearing the worst.

But he was still breathing. I helped him to his feet.

He shook himself and blinked at me. His entire, glorious tail had been pulled out and now I noticed feathers scattered around the coop. He had a few bare spots on his wings, but there wasn’t a bite mark on him. 

My daughter sidled up next to me. “Is he going to be all right?”

“I think so. Go get the wound spray from the barn. I’m going to spray him where his tail got pulled out.”

Jordyn brought me the spray and Buffalo held still while I tended to his bare back end. Then he fluttered up to his perch and checked on his hens. The white rooster turned around on his perch and I noticed that he, too, was missing much of his tail. I sprayed him too, checked the hens, then sat on the hay. 

The roosters stared at me. I stared back at them. “You’re war heroes, you know,” I told them. “You fought the battle so the hens could get away.”

They fluttered their wings, off balance without their large tails.

I smiled at them. Sometimes the roosters squabble with each other. Sometimes they peck the backs of the hens. But when the real enemy threatened their hens, the roosters worked together to protect the flock. 

That’s how we need to be too. In the church, in our families, in our circles of friends, we need to recognize that the enemy is not each other. There’s real enemy whose goal is our destruction, our death. 

Sometimes we’re too busy squabbling with each other to protect against the real threat. Sometimes we’re too busy pecking at those God has given us to protect. Paul says in Galatians 5:14-16 (NIV), “For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ If you bite and devour each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other.”

The roosters may occasionally be disgruntled with one another, but they don’t bite and devour each other. And when the real enemy sneaks into their coop, they band together to protect the hens. They know who the enemy really is.

And as I sat there, bemoaning the loss of Buffalo’s stunning tail (and most of Parmesan’s beautiful white tail), I started to see that losing a tail, even a gorgeous one like Buffalo’s, isn’t the worst thing that can happen.

God calls us to protect the weak, stand up for what’s right, lay down our lives, our tails, for others. He doesn’t call us to bicker and nitpick and peck at the very ones who we are called to protect. He doesn’t call us to bite and devour each other.

He calls us to fight the real enemy, the one who wants to destroy our souls. Together, just like Buffalo and Parmesan, we can defeat every dog who crashes our coop. Together, God gives us the strength to love others enough to sacrifice our tails so they can find a high place of safety.

Together, we can be who God created us to be, even if some feathers get pulled out in the process.