Welcome to the blog of author Marlo Schalesky!

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Staying the Path ... What I Learned from Horses, Kids, & Trail Rides

Hi Friends,

I'm busy planning new adventures for at-risk kids at Wonder Wood Ranch for 2018. And as I do so, I remember this story from one of our previous events. Sometimes I wander off into poisonous thoughts, poisonous actions ... I stray from God's path. This story reminds me to walk with God. Perhaps it will help you too ...

I put my hands on my hips and looked out at the sea of grinning-kid faces sitting on the stacks of hay before me. Nearly thirty big, wide smiles met my gaze. I grinned back. A few van-loads of kids had come from the local low-income apartments to spend the afternoon riding, grooming, and experiencing horse-life for the first time.
            “Who’s been on a horse before?” I asked.
            Three hands raised.
            My smile grew. It was going to be an interesting day.
            My daughters brought our horses from their pens as I reviewed basic safety tips. After the horses were saddled and ready, I pointed toward the narrow trail that winds through the trees around our property. “Okay, this is the important part. When it’s your turn, stay on the trail!”
            A boy raised his hand in the back of the group. “Why?”
            “If you don’t, guess what will get you?”
            I raised my eyebrows. “Worse! Poison oak!”
            “Oooooh.” Their eyes widened. 
            A tiny girl tugged on the edge of my shirt. “What’s poison oak?”
            I squatted beside her. “It’s a plant that looks like other plants, but it’s not like other plants at all. See all those nice red and green leaves growing on either side of the path?”
            She nodded.
            “That’s poison oak. It looks pretty, but if you rub against it you’ll get a nasty red, itchy rash. It’s awful.”
            She wrinkled up her nose. “I don’t want that.”
            “Nobody wants that. That’s why we stay on the path.”
            In the hours that followed, I led a string of horses around and around the trail. Two loops around, and kids would dismount to allow the next group to ride. Each time, we talked about poison oak. Each time, the kids kept their horses on the path. Until about two hours in.
            I heard a yelp behind me. “Help! Smokey’s going off the trail!” Sure enough, the gelding had spotted a patch of green and was heading right toward it. I ran back and grabbed his bridle, just as he reach a bush of shiny, poison leaves. I hauled him back to the safe path and walked beside him until he stayed the course.
            Two rounds later, I heard another yelp. This time, Valentine headed off the path, back toward the barn. After two and a half hours, she was tired. She wanted to be done. done. We brought her back to her spot and encouraged her to keep walking.
            Later that night as I thought back to the adventures of the day, I was reminded that we can stay out of the poisonous places in life if we just let God lead us on the proper path, let him dictate the boundaries and where we ought to walk. We must stay on the path God has for us. Otherwise, poison thoughts, poison actions, poison problems will rub up against us to make ugly, itchy rashes on our relationships, our work, and our witness.
            Sometimes there are green and red, shiny leaves tempting us off the path. They look pretty. We want to take a closer look. But they’re poison.
            Sometimes, like Smokey, we get hungry for things that are not for us and we veer off course. When that happens, it’s good to have God and wise friends to bring us back to the trail. And it’s good to allow them to walk beside us to help us stay the course.
            Sometimes, like Valentine, we just get tired and want to take a shortcut back to the barn. We want to be done. In those times, God says to us, “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” (Galatians 6:9, NIV)
            As I sat, soaking my feet that night, I thought about the joy we find when we trust God to lead us where we need to go. The path may be long, we may get tired and hungry, discouraged and disappointed. But God knows there’s poison off the path. He says to us, “...ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls.” (Jeremiah 6:16, NIV)

            Rest, not rashes. And maybe a good, epson salt soak for feet sore from the journey. That sounds good to me!

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

What is Blessing?

Hi Friends,

This work I'm working on a new introduction for the Guideposts direct mail edition of Wrestling with Wonder. I'm so glad to be able to offer this book to Guideposts subscribers, but I need to think of a new way to introduce the concepts of this book that's so close to my heart.

Here's a bit from the current introduction (below). I wonder if I should keep this part ...


I am like another woman who knelt in the darkness, waiting to be cleansed. A woman who wept and did not understand. A woman whom God called “highly favored” and yet who found herself at a cross, with all her dreams crushed, all her beliefs challenged.
            Did she kneel and weep and wrestle as I do?  Did she pound her fists as the sky turned black as pitch? Did she ask my questions as all hope died? Who is this God of promise and pain, who speaks of greatness then comes as a babe in a feeding trough? Who is he whose declaration of favor leads to the foot of a cross? Who is he when life goes awry and nothing goes as planned? Why is he not who I expected him to be?
            And that’s when I see it. I am Mary. The favored one. Not the cute little figurine in my Precious Moments nativity set. Not the peaceful-looking statue holding the form of a baby in my childhood church. But the woman for whom God’s favor looked like a stable, like rejection, like kneeling at the foot of that bloodstained cross.
            This is a love I hadn’t thought to look for. A love that defies my expectations that God’s favor should mean success, comfort, and prayer answered according to my wants. It should mean that life will go well and smoothly. But then, I will never become who he meant me to be.          
           After all, everyone wants to be highly favored by God. And yet everyone faces hardships, life’s unexpected twists and turns, and times when God seems absent. What do we do with this apparent discrepancy? Doesn’t God’s favor mean that he’ll do what we ask, grant us success, and make our way through life smooth and full of joy? Not for Mary. Not for me. Not for any of us.
            So, the questions change from the slithering hiss of “What if he doesn’t love me?” to an awed whisper ... “What if?”
            What if God’s blessings don’t look like good health, secure finances, and fulfilling relationships? What if his favor includes pain, poverty, sorrow, and even death? What if it’s about a hundred little things that seem to go wrong? What if favor is found through shattered dreams and on cold tile floors? That was Mary’s life. And it is mine.
            What if ...
            I am Mary.
           And God is more passionate, more wild, and more wondrous than I ever believed him to be. What if he is calling me, and you, deeper than our own dreams? What if he’s calling us to the foot of the cross?