Welcome to the blog of author Marlo Schalesky!

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Fight the Right Fight - Lessons from Roosters

Hi Friends,

I'm tired. Tired of bickering, in-fighting, griping, and conflict between people who all really want the same thing. Good people, fighting common enemies of despair, injustice, hurt, discouragement, hopelessness.

Time to learn a lesson from my two roosters.

It happened like this:

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!” 
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. 

Thursday, June 7, 2018

A Scary Evening in the ER: The Tension between Fear & Faith

Hi Friends,

Well, we had a super scary evening yesterday. Bria took her new horse to the round pen but before he got there, he freaked out, pushed her over, and trampled her as he ran off. Eek! And I got to put my own preaching into practice - yikes!

Scared, worried, wondering, not knowing how bad it was or what would happen next, comforting a bawling daughter on a hospital bed as the nurse inserts the IV for pain meds. Waiting, watching CT scans, X-rays, praying, hoping, fearing, pretending not to be afraid, praying some more, worrying, swallowing worry and smiling, telling her it will be okay.

What a night! (Spoiler alert: no broken bones, she's going to be okay ... just REALLY sore ... watching to make sure nothing weird happens like fever or vomiting now that she's home.)

And now we're home and I'm thinking about the war between faith and fear, between hope and failure. And I'm reminded again of the story of the man whose son was possessed by a demon. Wow, I can sure relate to this guy!

Here's a bit of what I wrote in Reaching for Wonder that I'm finding helpful today:

The crowd brings the boy forward when Jesus asks for him. As soon as they do, the evil spirit sees Jesus and immediately takes over. It throws the boy down; he rolls around stiff and foaming at the mouth. 
            What the father fears most happens right in front of him . . . again. All the failure, all the pain, all the horror hits as the son he loves falls and foams.
            And Jesus does nothing to stop it. He does nothing to prevent the man’s fear or hide the failure. Instead, he turns back to the father and asks a simple question, “How long has this been going on?” (v. 21)
            I am struck by the lack of panic, lack of hurry, in Jesus. While he interacts with the father, the boy continues to flop and seize. The tension of that moment must have been overwhelming, especially for the father. But Jesus is in no rush.
            The father is able to answer. “Since he was a child. It has often thrown him into a fire or into water trying to kill him.” Reviewing the fear seems to heighten it, for the man then bursts out, “If you can do anything, help us! Show us compassion!” (v. 22) I imagine he is shouting these words. 
            But Jesus doesn’t shout back. Instead, he calls the man deeper. At the height of his fear and failure, Jesus asks the man to focus not on his son who is having a life-threatening fit at their feet, but on Jesus and faith. “’If you can do anything?’” Jesus asks. “All things are possible for the one who has faith.” (v. 23) ...
And I love the man’s response: “I have faith; help my lack of faith!” or as it translates from the Greek, “I believe! Help my unbelief!” (v. 24)
There is the tension we all experience - this war within between faith and fear, hope and despair, belief and failure.
Jesus honors the battle. Earlier, he expressed his frustration at the lack of faith of his disciples, the teachers of the law, and the crowd. But here there is no such condemnation. There’s no scorn, no rebuke, not even any disappointment from Jesus. 
Why? This father doesn’t have model faith, and he knows it. And that seems to be the key. Jesus words were never meant to shame him, to say, “Well, I could heal if you’re faith was just good enough.” Instead they were meant to gently invite him to confront his own inner war, his own tension between his faith and fear, and do it at the moment when his fear was strongest, when his son was in the throes of a demon-possessed fit. Jesus was giving him the opportunity to bring the inner war to Jesus and be freed. 
Because that’s exactly what Jesus does next. He doesn’t respond to the man at all. He simply casts out the demon, so violently that the boy appears to be dead. It’s a scary healing, a frightening freedom, but a full freedom. For both of them.
The son is freed from the demon. And the father is freed from his failure and fear. We know that because there is a final test for the father. The boy is still, several in the crowd start whispering that the boy has died. His son’s death was what the father most feared. It would be the final failure. And here his son lies. Still as death. Pale as death. 
And we don’t hear a single word from the father. 
I believe that's because Jesus not only freed the son from the demon but freed the father from the war between fear and faith.
The foolish crowd believes Jesus’ healing resulted in the boy’s death. The father knows better. He waits. He watches. He submits to whatever Jesus will do. Why? Because he’s not only placed his faith in Jesus’ hands, but he has also placed his lack of faith there. His belief andhis unbelief. He brings it all and gives it to Jesus with the simply cry, “I have faith; help my lack of faith!” And that is enough.
It’s enough for us too.

It's enough for me. Today. And last night. And tomorrow. Especially as my little girl curls on the couch today telling me how sore she is. Today, faith wins anyway.