Welcome to the blog of author Marlo Schalesky!

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Embracing the Mystery of Christmas

Merry Christmas, Friends!

Some thoughts on the mystery of Christmas from the life of Mary and my book Wrestling with Wonder ...

Living with Mystery
The encounter with the shepherds is told in simple terms. They hurry to Bethlehem to find Mary, Joseph, and the baby who is lying in the manger. And when they’ve seen him, they go off and tell everyone what they’ve seen and heard. People are amazed.
But they aren’t transformed. They are simply wowed by a wow-worthy story.
Mary, however, doesn’t say “wow.” Instead, she says, “hmmm …”
Because I think she sees the incongruities. 
She doesn’t just take a glance at a babe in a manger. She holds him, encounters him, and so is able to see the truth – that the angel’s proclamation of “a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah” (v. 11) does not sit comfortably with “you will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” (v. 12) There should not be a Messiah in a Manger. That just doesn’t make sense.
So she treasures up what she’s heard and seen, and she ponders in her heart. In the Greek, the word for “ponder” also means to bring together, to meet. So, we have the idea of bringing together disparate ideas in her mind and mulling over what they might mean.
            She grapples with ideas that don’t easily come together and make sense, because she encounters, as a babe in a manger, a God who does not always make sense. She encounters a God who asks her not to have it all figured out with tidy explanations and clear conclusions, but to wrestle with the mysteries of who this Messiah-God really is.
            Here are just a few mysteries to be treasured, to be pondered:
--Angels who don’t come to sing for their King, but show up to shepherds. Now that doesn’t make sense. 
--A Messiah lying in a feeding trough. Now that doesn’t make sense. St. Francis of Assisi wrote in a letter: “Though he was wealthy beyond reckoning, he still willingly chose to be poor with his blessed mother.” And we know that God intended it that way because the angel sent the shepherds not to a barn or a house or a street or an address. He sent them to a manger. “This will be a sign to you,” he said, “You will find a baby wrapped I cloths and lying in a manger.”
            --A Redeemer in rags. Now that doesn’t make sense. Seventh century English monk Bede writes, “It should be noted that the sign given of the Savior’s birth is not a child enfolded in Tyrian purple, but one wrapped with rough pieces of cloth …” 
            If, like Mary, we are close enough to Jesus to hold him, to be near him, to be in a real relationship with him over time, we too will encounter mystery. We come up against truths that are hard to reconcile but are true all the same.  We will have to wrestle, and wonder.  Treasure and ponder.
But if, like the shepherds, we only travel once to the manger, we take a glance to corroborate what we’ve been told, then leave to other tasks (even good ones), then we will see the baby. We will confirm what we’d hoped to be true. But we will miss the mystery. We will not encounter the deeper things of God. We will have no treasure to ponder.
So often we think that the closer we are to Christ, the more answers we must have. But Mary teaches us that is not necessarily true. The shepherds have no questions, no doubts, no wonderings. But Mary does. The one who has carried him in her womb, held him in her arms, is the one who has no answers. She is the one who ponders the paradoxes and treasures them in her heart.
She is called to live with the mystery of a messiah who is already so different from what she could have imagined. She ponders and treasures the mystery of things that cannot yet make sense.
            The question is, will we? 
Why is it that so often we feel we need to make explanations for what God is doing in our lives and in the lives of those around us? If the shepherds came to us, would we explain why the babe was in a feeding trough? Would we excuse the stink, the poverty, the rough rags and splintered wood? Would we spout platitudes or deny the strangeness of what is true?
Would we say:
It’s not really that bad. (It’s not really a feeding trough.)
I don’t mind. (I didn’t want a real room.)
God is good, so I have nothing to complain about. (These aren’t really rags.)          
What if instead we saw God for who he really is? The God who provides only a trough for his own Son’s crib. The God who sends shepherds to a baby wrapped in rags. The God who leaves heaven to become a baby in poverty. The God who does things in our lives that we don’t understand, that don’t seem to make sense, that aren’t supposed to … yet.

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Wonder in the Barns of Life

Hi Friends,

Merry Christmas! Today I'm making final preparations for a talk I'll be giving at a local church, to their women's group. I'm so looking forward to sharing about finding the wonder of God in the Barns of Life, which to me is the message of Christmas. 

So today, I'd like to share a little with you about how it might have been for Mary as she gave birth in the place where animals lived. This is an excerpt from my book on Mary, titled Wrestling With Wonder:

Mary Tells Her Story

There’s no place for us.  No place for this babe, this Son of the Almighty God, that I bear.  
But the pains come anyway.  Sharp, insistent.  Not now, I want to say.  Not yet.  There is no place for you.  Nowhere for you to be born.
But my womb clenches again and I gasp.  The pains are more regular now, radiating into my back.  He will not wait, this divine baby of mine.
Joseph approaches me, places a hand on my tight belly.  He shakes his head.  
No place for us.
I nearly double over.  My breath comes quickly now, heavily.

“There is a place with the animals,” he whispers.
I swallow.  Hard.  Is it possible that this child, the Messiah, the King of all Kings, will be born in a barn?  No...
Lord, is there no where else?  Can You find no other place for your own Son?
But the heavens are silent.  No guest room, no spare closet, no private corner in a relative’s home.
And the pain comes again.  
Joseph takes my arm.  “We must hurry.”  
“Not the stable.”
“It’s the only place. I’m sorry.”
I’m sorry too.  Oh, Lord . . .
Step by step, stopping to breathe, to not breathe.  To groan.  I make my way toward the animals.
And then we are there.  In the rustling, the stink, the dirt, the mud.  No midwife.  No friend.  No mother.  Just me.  Just Joseph.  And them.
A donkey brays.  
A cow lifts its tail.
A horse stomps and spreads four legs.
No, not here ... 
I lay on the filthy straw.  I pant.  I cry.
A horse nickers, pushes at an empty feeding trough.  
I swat a fly.  And the pain comes again.
This time, I scream.  I wheeze.  I gasp.  And my mind floods with ripping agony.  Ten seconds.  Twenty.  Thirty.  A minute.  And more.  I breathe again.  I must breath.
Joseph grabs the rags. I am sweating now.  He wipes my brow.  But there is nothing he can do.  He cannot share this pain.
No one can.
My belly contracts.  Hard.  I clench my teeth. Bite back my shouts.  
It hurts.  Oh Lord, it hurts so much.  
My sweat, mixed with the smell of horse urine and cow dung.  The snuffling of a donkey.  The frightened glance of a husband who is not the baby’s father.
Help, Lord!
A rush of water runs down my legs.  Minutes turn to hours.  Hours of shocking pain and moments of panting relief.  On and on. 
The pain.  Mind-numbing.  Middle-ripping.  Pain.
And the pressure.
Finally, the baby is coming.  I scream at Joseph.  But he is ready.  
I am half-squatting, half-laying.  
“Push,” he yells.
I push.
I yell.
I breathe.  Breathe in the rank stink.  Breath in the smell of blood.  Breathe in the scent of things that no king should smell.
But this King will.  
Oh God, will He really be born in a barn?  Your Son?  The hope of all Israel?
I push.  And rest.  And push.  And yell.  And push.  And cry.  And push.  And groan.
It is no easy thing to birth a Savior.
I see his head!”  Joseph’s eyes are wide.  His hands ready.
I bear down.  Hard.
And the baby comes.  A King, sliding into this world covered in vernix and blood, and surrounded by animals as the only witnesses to this moment that will change the world.  
Joseph laughs.
The baby wails.
And I weep.
I weep for a Promise born in a barn.  I weep for a Messiah born in the stink.  I weep for King crowned not with gold but with blood.  Will it always be so?
Joseph cuts the baby’s cord.  He presses my stomach and the afterbirth spews from me.  
It is done, this birthing of a Savior.
Joseph wipes him with a rag and hands him to me.  I gather him in my arms.  He looks so normal, this Son of God.  So ordinary.  So small, this tiny babe, with a stock of dark hair, a red face, and wrinkled, old-man skin.  This, this is the One we’ve waited for.  
I close my eyes and kiss his forehead.
He squirms and squawks at me.
I wrap this ordinary, extraordinary baby in rags and place him in the empty feeding trough.  A box made for the animals to eat becomes his bed.  He looks around.  Dark grey eyes taking in a world gone awry.  
What must it be like for God to see through the eyes of a human babe?  To smell through a human nose?  To feel the scratch of the rags, the hardness of the board?
But he doesn’t cry.  Not at this moment.  
He just looks.
He sees.
And I catch my breath.
There is the King of all Kings, the Son of God Himself, wrapped in rags and lying in a feeding trough.  A Messiah surrounded by stink.  But somehow I don’t smell it anymore.
I laugh.  I laugh at the incongruity.  I laugh at the wildness of my God.  

I laugh, because the God of the Universe took my barn and turned it into a palace.  He took what should not be and filled it with wonder.

Thursday, November 8, 2018

Are You Thankful for Fallen Things?

Hi Friends,

Since fall is upon us and the leaves are changing (well, some of them - I live in California after all), I've been thinking about the things I'm thankful for. And I wonder, am I thankful enough for the fallen things in my life? Am I thankful for the things that have dropped away, that I've lost? That's a little harder than thanking God for the obvious blessings.

So, as I consider thankfulness for the fallen things, I'm reminded of this story from Bryan's childhood ...

Let the Leaves Fall
by Bryan Schalesky
as told to Marlo Schalesky

            I remember the smell, and the crinkle, and the varying shades of brown, yellow, and orange.  I remember the crispness of the air, and the scraping of the rake against dry leaves. I remember a Nebraska autumn and a lawn covered in fall’s leafy quilt and my little brother and I leaping with reckless abandon into piles of musky sweetness.
            I remember a time when raking up the dead and fallen things in our lives meant not sorrow, but joy.  Not regret, not fear, but hope in what was to come.
            If I close my eyes, even now, I can see the sheen of sweat on my dad’s face as he leaned over the rake.  I can hear the sound it made as he pulled it over the dead grass toward him.
            “Bryan, grab the little rake from the garage and help me.”
            “Okay, Dad.”
            I trotted to the garage, pulled down a rake that was bigger than I was and dragged it outside.  Then, I swished the tines across the leaves to gather them into a tiny pile.  
            Dad added more leaves to my pile.
            A moment later, my three-year-old brother toddled out of the house.  He clapped his hands.  “Oh, yay! Can we jump in them yet?”
            Dad shook his head.
            The pile isn’t big enough.  Why don’t you gather some up with your hands and add them to the stack.
            Justin did.  Little by little, the pile grew, with Dad adding great bundles of leaves, me adding small bundles, and Justin adding a few here and there, as much as his little hands could carry.
            Soon, the lawn was clear, the pile a gigantic heap of potential-fun, and the rakes were safely stored.
            Dad sat on the steps and rested while Justin and I squealed and ran and threw ourselves into a mountain of fall colors.  Dad smiled as we played and played and played.  We tossed leaves, we burrowed in leaves, and we laid in leaves while gazing up at the gray sky.  
            And we never, ever wished that the leaves would turn green and go back onto the trees again.  We weren’t afraid of their falling.  We didn’t feel bereft.  
            Instead, we knew that fresh, green leaves would come in the spring, while these dead ones had fallen to bring us joy . . . and a little work.
            So why, all these years later, do I grumble and moan and fear when dead things fall away in my life?  Why do I clench my hands so tightly around things that no longer bring me life? Why don’t I let them fall and bring me a new kind of joy?
            2 Corinthians 5:17 (NIV) says, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!”
            When I hear this verse, I usually think about it as if it only means that sometime, way in my past, when I accepted Jesus I became a new creation in Christ.  But as I think of the falling leaves of autumn, I wonder if it doesn’t also mean that Christ continues to make me new, renew me . . . and cause the old, dead things to fall away like autumn leaves.
            And when they do, when the leaves scatter on the dry ground, I don’t need to fret about what I no longer have, what I no longer am.  Instead, I can look forward to new, green leaves in the springtime, and for now, find joy in the crinkly, brown piles in my life.  
            Now, as I gather dried leaves for my own kids, I think about those days long ago when my dad did most of the raking, the piling, the working.  I helped.  My little brother helped.  But I know now that dad did the real work.  And I remind myself that when dead things fall away in my life, it’s my heavenly father who is doing most of the work then too.  I help.  Others may help.  But it is God who is clearing away the crusty brownness of old habits, dead plans, and things that are no longer vital, living.  
            So, when dead things fall away, I want to stop worrying and instead revel in thankfulness for God’s work in my life.  I want to lay on the leaves in a heap, look up, and know that spring is coming. I want to trust God enough to rake beside him and rejoice when the work is done.

Thursday, October 18, 2018

A Word for the Weary

Hi Friends,

I was thinking this week about weariness. I've been weary. Sometimes life seems like too much. Too much stress, too much worry, too many problems, too much to do. So I've been thinking about the ending of the chapter in Reaching for Wonder about the woman who had been bleeding for 12 years. 12 years is too much!

So, if you're weary, maybe this excerpt will encourage you as it did me:

Who Is This God? 
         So who is this God?
         He is the God of Face-to-Face Hope. He is the God of Unexpected Blessing. 
         He always has been.
         When we are weary, when we are terrified and feel trapped, when we’ve sent all our resources away in hopes of buying what we long for, when we are alone, that is the time to be like Jacob on the edge of the Jabbok River (Genesis 32). 
         In Genesis 32, Jacob was afraid that his brother was coming to kill him and take or destroy everything he had. He feared not only the loss of his life, but the loss of his possessions and family as well. He feared what the bleeding woman experienced.
         So in the middle of the night, Jacob took all of his family and possessions to the other side of the river. Then he was alone. But he was not alone. Verses 24-31 tell us:

But Jacob stayed apart by himself, and a man wrestled with him until dawn broke . . . The man said, “Let me go because the dawn is breaking.” But Jacob said, “I won’t let you go until you bless me.” He said to Jacob, “What’s your name?” and he said, “Jacob.” Then he said, “Your name won’t be Jacob any longer, but Israel,because you struggled with God and with men and won.” . . . and he blessed Jacob there. Jacob named the place Peniel,“because I’ve seen God face-to-face, and my life has been saved.” 

         For Jacob there was never any “good enough.” He wouldn’t settle for less than a full blessing. He wrestled for it, and would not walk away. For him, there were no “justs” and “onlys.” He wanted the most that God would give. He often sought blessing deceitfully, but there was something in him that God prized, because God cannot be manipulated, and yet Jacob did get the blessings. 
         What are we asking God for? Is it enough? Is it relational? Are we asking to see his face, to know him better, to be a beloved daughter or son?
         In our weariness, in our desperation, when we’ve spent all, done all, and have nothing left but one last chance to grab to edge of his garment, remember, there is no sneaking away into the crowd. Our God insists on giving us more than just a healing, only making it stop. He insists on the face-to-face encounter that will heal more than our bodies. It will heal our souls. 

Lord, help me not to settle for “good enough” 
when I’m tired and broken and out of options. 
May I see you for who you really are — a God who loves me 
and longs to look into my face so that I might hear the words, 
“Take heart, daughter; take heart, son,” and be more than healed. 
May I always believe that knowing you more deeply
is better than just making the pain stop. 
Turn around, Lord. May I see your face today.
May I hear your voice speaking life in my weariness.

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Calming Angry Kids

Hey Friends,

I wanted to tell you about a brand new resource, written by my friend and mom of 10, Tricia Goyer.  Got angry kids? Work with angry kids? This will help!!

Below are some words of wisdom from the book. I hope they help. Oh, click for the Amazon link (though it's available everywhere).

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Finding God in the Dark

Hi Friends,

I wanted to share a little of the (in)courage devotional that was recently published. I thought this bit might be helpful to you if you find yourself in a dark place in life where it's hard to see the way forward.

In the devotion, I shared about our daily (and nightly!) 24/7 journey with Jayden (age 9) who has Type 1 Diabetes, and then this ...


This is the pain I endure, the suffering I cannot escape. Day after day. Night after night. An incurable disease. A beloved son. 
            But my pain is not unique. It’s no greater, no less than yours. A lost job, a broken marriage, an estranged child, an untimely death, a scary diagnosis, an incurable disease. None of us get through life unscathed. None have life just as we wish it. 
            So as I stand here watching, waiting, hoping and afraid to hope, I wonder ...
What does it mean to encounter Christ in the dark? What does it mean to live a life of faith when life is scary and you can’t see you way? How do I walk through each day, each hour, each minute of a life that hasn’t turned out the way I’d dreamed?
            Sometimes I have no idea. But then I remember Bartimaeus (Mark 10). A blind man, sitting in the dark, on the road from Jericho to Jerusalem. A man who didn’t let blindness, bad odds, a hopeless disease, scorn, fear, doubt, or despair stop him.
            From Bartimaeus, I learn five things about finding God in the dark:
            1) Listen for Rumors of God
            When Bartimaeus was sitting in the dark on the side of road, he wasn’t focused on his problems, his lack of resources, or his poor chances of being healed. He was paying attention to any sign, however small, of hope. When the crowd passed, he was listening so carefully that he heard the name of Jesus of Nazareth. It only took a rumor, a whisper, a hint of God coming near for him to begin to shout for mercy.
            2) Persist!
            As soon as Bartimaeus shouted for the Son of David to have mercy on him, the crowd tried to shush him. But - and I love this! - instead of being discouraged, Barty shouted all the louder.
            3) Throw Off Your Cloak - He’s Calling You
            Then Jesus called out to Bartimaeus, who leapt up and threw off his cloak, the very garment that he used to catch coins when he begged. He cast aside his security, his “back-up plan” and, even though he was still in the dark, he made his way to Jesus. 
            4) Know What You Want
            Jesus asked Bartimaeus a simple question: What do you want? And without hesitation, Barty answers do. He didn’t want power or prestige (unlike James and John, who were asked the same question just a few verses before Bartimaeus’s story). He just wanted to see. He wanted to see Jesus. Simple as that.
            5) The Right Prayer
            And Jesus opened blind Barty’s eyes, and the first thing Barty was the face of Jesus. Just Jesus. Because “Lord, I want to see,” is the right prayer for us all. 
            Lord, in my pain, in my fear, in my darkness and doubt, I want to see Jesus. He is enough.

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Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Reaching for Wonder When Life is Hard

Hi Friends,

Here are some responses to a recent interview about Reaching for Wonder. May they encourage you when life is difficult and you need more than "just have faith."


1.    Why Reaching for Wonder? Why is this theme important to you?
When I first started to really grapple with this idea of Reaching for Wonder when life is at its worst, my family was in the midst of some of the most difficult and painful times we’ve ever had to face. We were going through betrayal, from both inside and outside of the family. We were being threatened by a stalker, so we were dealing with the difficult and scary process of getting and enforcing a restraining order. Our business also took a turn for the worse. The stress was causing health problems on top of marital conflicts, and everything else. Life hurt.

I had discovered when we had faced infertility and miscarriage in the past, that the idea of “just have faith” and “God won’t give you more than you can bear” is, well, a bunch of hooey. 

Life is HARD. Heartbreaking, soul-choking things happen to us. This life is not a walk in the park with daisies. It’s a journey that has peaks and beautiful vistas, but it also has dark valleys where we can barely remember what the sun looks like. Sometimes it seems as if those valleys will never end. This life is a battle for our souls. 

In my latest valleys, I started looking more carefully and deeply at the Jesus we see in the New Testament. I looked at how he interacts with those who are facing things that were more than they could bear. I found the real Jesus is not a “just have faith and it will be okay” type of God. He is a breath-taking, vivid God who meets us in the times of trouble and encounters us in ways I didn’t expect. In ways that shake me from my “just have faith” mentality. He’s not after a shallow Band-Aid faith. He’s after a life-changing, shock-my-soul relationship with the living God. And that matters. It matters to me. 

To me, that changes everything.

2.    What is something that surprised you the most while researching Reaching for Wonder?   

The miracle stories in the New Testament are not miracle stories at all. In fact, the miracles, the healings, even the resurrections, are written almost as an afterthought to the heart of the story. It’s the encounter with Christ, the internal transformation that comes from that encounter, that is front and center in these stories. It is this unexpected and out-of-the-box Messiah who takes center-stage. The changes of circumstance, the healings, are told in a “oh, by the way, the person was healed” sort of manner. And that changes everything. When I come to God when life hurts, when I’m praying and hoping that He will just “fix it,” God’s interest isn’t focused on my circumstances (like mine is), rather, it’s on me. His goal is that I encounter him face-to-face and see him for who he really is.

3.    What do you most want readers to take away from Reaching for Wonder?

I want readers to have encountered Christ in the their own difficulties. I want them to have discovered him a new, deeper, richer, more vibrant and more wonder-filled way … even if their circumstances haven’t changed. I want them to take away a new and vivid Hope.

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

When All Seems Lost - Finding Hope on the Road

Hi Friends,

I've been thinking about the Road to Emmaus and how Jesus meets us when everything seems lost. I wrote a little about it in my last book, Reaching for Wonder. (And I have this picture in my home - it's one of my favorites!)

So, if you're in that place where hope seems lost, consider this:

Imagine . . .

Imagine that everything you’ve ever hoped for is gone. Imagine that your dreams for the future were stolen and crushed. There is nothing you can do to make it better. There is no song you can sing, no prayer you can pray, no hope you can cling to.
It is all dead. Gone. 
And you are leaving it all behind you as you simply walk away. 
You’ve been told there’s reason to hope. There are rumors, there are stories. But you don’t hope. Not anymore. 
Imagine that you’ve read through an entire book that beckons you to believe again, to trust again, to look for a God you saw die. And now you are reading the last chapter and the pain remains, no healing has come, no change at all in the circumstances that surround you.
And you are ready to close the book and simply walk away.
You head down the road, you argue with a friend. You discuss why hope is foolish and life simply is what it is and nothing will ever change.
But a third man joins you. You don’t recognize him at all. He asks you what you’re talking about and you shake your head. How could he not know, how could he not see?
So you explain your hope and what became of it. You lay out your dreams and how they died. You fight the tears because you’ve already cried too much, struggled too much, hurt too much.
You fling your story in his face, daring him to deny your pain, your hopelessness, the deadness of your despair. You tell him again. It is all dead. Gone. Done.
But then something unexpected happens. The stranger begins to explain everything to you, not just the circumstances that caused your pain. He goes back to the beginning. He shows you how it all fits together. How every single thing in your life comes together for good because you love God and you — you! — are called according to his purposes. It all fits together. It all makes sense. Nothing that has happened, no pain, no suffering, no disappointment, no failure, no death is left purposeless. It is all woven together like a beautiful tapestry, with dark threads and light.
So you ask the stranger to stay with you as the day turns to night. 
Imagine sitting with him at the table. He lifts his arms. He breaks the bread. And only then do you recognize this stranger from the road. It is Jesus who died for you, rose for you, and has come to encounter you when all you wanted to do was get away. 
You recognize him in the breaking of the bread.
And you realize that your heart is on fire within you.
Suddenly, you dare to hope again. And you turn right back around and head the way you came. You trudged on your way out but you run on your way back. 
You run back to hope, back to joy, back to faith.
All because Jesus met you when you were running away.
All because you encountered him on the road to Emmaus.

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Come Out of Hiding!

Hi Friends,

Here are some encouraging words from Reaching for Wonder ...

Who Is This God?      
         Who is this God who does more than heal? Who is he who is not satisfied to repair the deaf and make the mute speak? Who is he who calls us to deeper listening, deeper speaking? Who is he who opens more than physical ears, untwists more than physical tongues?
         He is the God of Ephphatha. He is the God of aletheia.
         Aletheiais the Greek word for truth. It also means unhidden. Exposed. No longer in isolation. 
         When we can’t hear God or others clearly, when our words don’t rightly reflect the longing and need in our souls, the answer is not to pretend, to blend in with the crowd, to hide in plain sight. The answer is ephphatha. It is aletheia. 
         We have to step out of the crowd and encounter the living God. We need to stop hiding the truth about ourselves, our situation, our fears, hopes, failures, dreams.
         We need to declare with Isaiah: “Mourn for me; I’m ruined! I’m a man with unclean lips, and I live among a people with unclean lips. Yet I’ve seen the king, the Lord of heavenly forces!” (Isaiah 6:5)
         We need to confess with David after his sin with Bathsheba, and his betrayal of Uriah, the Hittite: “I know my wrongdoings, my sin is always right in front of me. I’ve sinned against you . . . I’ve committed evil in your sight . . . And yes, you want truth in the most hidden places; you teach me wisdom in the most secret space . . . Create a clean heart for me, God; put a new, faithful spirit deep inside me!” (Psalm 51:3-6, 10)
We need to sing with ex-slave-trader John Newton who wrote:

Amazing grace! How sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me!
I once was lost, but now am found;
Was blind, but now I see.

         I was deaf but now I hear. I was mute but now I speak. Hear the truth. Speak the truth. Don’t hide any longer.
         As I write these words, my own soul sighs within me because there are people dear to me who need ephphatha, who need aletheia. I groan for those who want to hide and pretend everything’s okay, they’re okay, when everything is far from fine. I sigh for those who want to deny they even need real healing, that they need Jesus’ fingers in their ears, his spit on their tongues. They persist in deafness and muteness when their life is imploding. No matter how loud we shout, no matter how we crowd around them, they cannot hear, they will not speak. And their souls are withering beneath the weight of isolation and sin.
         And Jesus is calling out — Ephphatha! Open up! Just open up! There is healing, there is freedom, to be found in that simple, spoken command.
         Ephphatha . . .