Welcome to the blog of author Marlo Schalesky!

Monday, December 16, 2019

What Kind of King is This?

Hi Friends,

As we prepare our hearts for Christmas, I'm thinking of what it might have been like for Mary, Jesus' mother, to encounter Christ the King.

I wonder if she would tell us something like this:

He was born in a barn, wrapped in rags, laid in a feeding trough.  No palace, no crib, no soft silk meant for a king.  The animals were our witnesses.  Lowly shepherds our first visitors.  
            What kind of King is this?
            I held him in my arms. He nestled, and nuzzled. So normal. So real. He let out a cry, his mouth open, searching. I smiled and guided him to eat.  He was strong, this newborn son of mine. Of Gods. This Messiah. 
I rolled the word over in my mind as I gazed down at his pink cheeks, his stock of curly black hair. His eyes were closed, his lashes dark against his skin. 
Messiah. Rescuer. Deliverer. Redeemer. King … Baby.
What kind of King is this?
            He grew up, my Messiah-Son.  And was nothing like I expected.  He didnt conquer Rome, he didnt rule the nations, he didnt raise an army or free Israel . . . at least not in the way I had dreamed.
            Instead, he asked me to face my deepest fear. My darkest doubt. My nightmare.
            A young man came to me in the night. He came disheveled and out of breath. Told me they had arrested my son. Men came—soldiers, crowds, but not only them, the priests came too. The leaders of my people. They came by night to a garden with clubs and torches and swords. And they took him.
            They took him to Gabbatha, the Stone Pavement. The place of judgment.   
            I went too.  I stood there, shaking, in a courtyard with a crowd. The noonday sun beat down on us, illuminating the stones, the people, the priests, Pilate, and my son, my Jesus, wavering on the platform before me. A glance stole my breath, constricted my heart. I barely recognized him. His eye was swollen, his clothes bloody. He looked like a lamb already slaughtered.
            What kind of King is this?
            He did wear a purple robe, but it was to mock him. And on his head ... Oh, ... My soul shattered.  
            On his head was not a crown of gold, but a crown made of the thorns of the akanthos bush. Blood ran down his forehead, his cheeks. 
            Akanthos, a symbol of my people’s shame ...
            Pilate held up his hand. “Behold your king!” he shouted.
            I covered my face, peeked through my fingers.
            “Do you want me to release for you the King of the Jews?”
            For a moment, hope soared through me.
            And was crushed by a single word: “Barabbas!”
            Just days before the crowds welcomed him like David coming into his kingdom. They laid palm branches, they cried hosanna! They sang, “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Blessed is the king of Israel!” They threw down their coats so the colt’s hooves would not even touch the dirt. 
            And I believed he rode in to claim his kingdom at last.
            But what kind of King is this?
            A king isn’t beaten.
            A king isn’t bloody.
            A king doesn’t die a criminal’s death.
            Or does He?
            Pilate spoke again. “What shall I do with this Jesus?” he cried.
            The question drove into me like a soul-piercing sword. It drove through me, became my own. What shall I do with this Jesus? What shall I do with a King destined to die?
            What shall I do with this kind of King?  

Monday, December 2, 2019

Christmas Changes Everything

Hi Friends,

As we begin the Christmas season, celebrating the birth of Christ into our world, I thought I'd share what it might have been like for Mary to encounter an angel with an incredible promise.

Perhaps, if Mary could talk to us about Christmas, she would begin something like this:

(Adapted from Wrestling with Wonder)

Christmas changes everything.  HE changes everything.  He changed me, Mary.  He changed this ordinary girl, with her ordinary life, in an ordinary village tucked into the back corners of Galilee. But he changed all that. 
            Here’s how it started:
            It was early in the morning, and my mother had gone to gather gossip near Nazareth’s well.  I stood by the grinding stone, my fingers sunk deep in the warm dough of the day's bread. A sound rustled behind me.  I turned.  And saw him.
            A man, but not a man. Like nothing I have ever seen before.  Tall and strong. Shining. Splendid. Extraordinary.
            In the silvery silence, he approached me. Looked at me. Gently, fiercely, his gaze like fire in my soul. And he spoke.
            “Rejoice!” A common word. An uncommon greeting. “Rejoice, favored one, the Lord is with you.”
            What kind of greeting was this? 
            He said it again. “Do not be afraid. You have found favor with God.”
            Then, he whispered a single word: “Behold ...” It is the word for see. But what he wanted me to see was impossible. 
            He said, “Behold, you will conceive in the womb and will bear a son and you will call his name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High and the Lord God will give him the throne of his father, David.  And he will rule over the house of Jacob into the ages and of his kingdom there will be no end!”
            What?! I grasped at the first impossibility.  “How will this be? I’m a virgin.” 
            And then came the wildest part of all. He didn’t speak of men or of marriage.  He spoke of miracles. He told me the Holy Spirit himself would come upon me and God’s power would overshadow me. And this child, this tiny little baby boy would be called holy, the very Son of God.
            An incredible plan. An astounding promise.  But more than a promise. A call. A question. Would I leave all my plans, all my hopes, behind me?  Would I lay aside my ordinary life to embrace this vision of something new, something impossible, beyond anything I ever imagined?
            His next words danced through me: “Nothing is impossible with God.”
            “No word from God will ever fail."
            Did I dare believe it? Did I dare say yes? I knew what it meant. Nothing would be the same again. No one would understand. Could I bear that kind of shame? Could I bear their disbelief? And more, could I bear that kind of beauty? Could I bear the wonder?
            And in that ordinary moment, on an ordinary day, in an ordinary life, the heavens waited, breathless.
            “I am the Lord’s servant.” I exhaled the words. “May it be done to me according to what you’ve said.”  
            My angel smiled.
            I trembled.
            Then, he was gone.
            And all I could think of was the babe, all I could hear was the whispered cry of my soul:  Messiah, Savior, Son, be born in me . . .

Thursday, November 14, 2019

Interview with NFR Reads

Hey Friends,

Check out my latest author interview - it's at NFR reads. Here's the link: https://www.nfreads.com/interview-with-author-marlo-schalesky/ 

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Exposing the Stinky Things in Life

Hi Friends,

This week I've been thinking about how God's light in our lives exposes and drives away the things of darkness - the things that want to stay hidden - the stinky things, and I was reminded of this story of skunks in the dark when were camping ...

Skunks in the Dark

The night shone clear and cool in the Santa Cruz mountains as I stepped from the camper. A cheery fire danced in the firepit. I grabbed a blanket, settled in a fold-out chair near the flames, and waited.
My daughter and a few of her friends took chairs on the other side of the fire. We roasted a few marshmallows, made a few s’mores, cooked a few hot dogs. The fire grew dimmer. The night grew darker.
Dimmer. Darker. Until there were only the glow of coals in the pit and the shine of stars in the sky.
Very dim. Very dark.
Then came the sounds of shuffling in the trees. Tiny feet, tiny snuffles, crackling leaves. 
“What is it?” My daughter whispered.
“I don’t know,” her friend answered.
We waited. The night grew silent. Our eyes grew heavy. 
Soon, I drifted into a light sleep. The sounds of snuffling mixed with strange dreams.
Then someone gasped. That wasn’t part of my dream. My eyes flew open.
“Mom, don’t move.” 
I held still. A moment later, the beam from a flashlight moved toward the now-dark fire. And there, illuminated in the beam, ten inches from me, waddled two fat, black and white skunks. 
I held my breath. So did everyone else.
The skunks moved away from the light. The light followed them. Again, they moved toward the darkness. Light, movement, darkness. Light, movement, darkness. 
I let out my breath, quietly. 
The skunks made their way under the picnic table. The light followed them. They puttered out from the other side. The light shone again. And then, finally, they scuttled back into the woods.
We all started breathing normally again.
“That was a close call.”
“Whew. That was scary.”
“Do you think they’ll come back?”
“We need more light.”
We turned on the lights outside the camper and stoked the fire. No more skunks came to visit that night. All we needed was more light.
It’s not so different from how stinky things come out in the other areas of our lives where we allow darkness to creep in. Pride, lust, disdain, despair … sin. They all start snuffling around when we let the light in our lives go out. In the darkness they flourish; they become bold and audacious. And if they catch us napping, they’ll spray us with a horrible stench.
John 3:20-21 (NIV) says, “Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed. But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God.”
In God’s sight, there is more than enough light to expose and chase away the skunks. Ephesians 5:13-14(NIV) tells us that it is Christ who shines to illumine our places of darkness. It says, “But everything exposed by the light becomes visible—and everything that is illuminated becomes a light. This is why it is said: ‘Wake up, sleeper,rise from the dead,and Christ will shine on you.’”

So, we rise from our sleeping spots near the dead fire. We trust God to renew the flames and reveal what is hidden in our darkness, because, “he will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of the heart.”(1 Corinthians 4:5 (NIV))

When we hear the snuffling and shuffling of sin in the dark, it’s time to wake up, turn on the light, stoke the fire, and allow the light of Christ to shine on our dark places. That light is the only thing that will drive the skunks away. When our fire dims and the life becomes dark, we must recognize those shadowed places in our lives and shine light on them before us and everyone around us gets sprayed by the stink.

            All of us have skunks wandering in the woods around us. Night comes in all our lives. And sometimes the fire within dims for us all. But God provides flashlights. He provides more wood for the fire and camper lights that illuminate from afar. He provides the means by which what is stinky can be exposed and chased away. He freely gives of his light.
And that means we don’t need to have to be afraid of skunks in the darkness anymore.

Monday, October 28, 2019

Why I Don't Ignore Halloween

Hi Friends,

Some thoughts on Halloween and what we do at Wonder Wood Ranch (usually - this year I lost a bunch of my decorations in our shed fire, so we had to skip a year ... we'll be back with the Haunted Trail next year!)

Consider this for a different-from-usual perspective on this day ...

Transforming Halloween

Unlike some, we don’t choose to ignore Halloween. We don’t choose to scorn it. We want to transform it. We want it to point to the wonder of what Christ has done for us. So every year at Wonder Wood Ranch, our charity ranch for disadvantaged kids, we do a haunted trail event the weekend before Halloween. The kids, of course, love it.
But I love it more.
We pile kids on the backs of horses and begin the trail just as darkness falls. Blacklight flashlights illuminate the path and the decorations. Horses climb a short hill and encounter a glowing sign. “The thing that I fear comes upon me,” it reads, from Job 3:25 (ESV). Kids-on-horses then continue along a trail through the dark woods that’s decorated with skeletons, white bed-sheet ghosts, and green and orange florescent eyes peering from under bushes and between trees. Warnings and cobwebs line the trail. A headless horseman greets the guests and leads them to a graveyard (with funny tombstones) which sits near the end of the path. Then finally, the horses climb another small hilland encounter one more sign. “Who will rescue me from this … death?” the sign asks. And it points to a huge wooden cross, lit with solar lights. 
I love the experience of the haunted trail at night because in our lives, and in the lives of our guests (often kids dealing with gang or domestic violence), there are many things to fear. Too often, life is like a haunted trail. The things we fear come upon us. Death comes, cobwebs invade, evil scratches at the corners of our lives trying to defeat us. 
Sometimes we have a child flirting with death and nothing we do helps. Sometimes we have a financial, health, relational, marital, spiritual crisis and all we can see are bones and scary glowing eyes along the path of our lives. Sometimes we tremble.  Sometimes we fear. Sometimes we don’t know how we can go forward anymore. And that’s the trail we walk. 
But in Christ, the path doesn’t end with a graveyard. It doesn’t end with a skeletal horse and rider. It doesn’t end with death and defeat. It ends with the cross. It ends with hope and life and victory. And sometimes, you just have to keep walking in the dark. You just have to dare to hope again, believe again. You have to hold to the wisps of faith you have and be honest about the faith you lack, be honest about your failings and fear. You have to keep going, knowing that Christ himself defeated death for us all.
That’s the power of the haunted trail. 
It reminds me that no matter what is happening in my life, whether I can see only a foot in front of me or not at all, no matter the spooky ghosts or scary places where death seems threatens, God is leading me through and speaking to me the words of Isaiah 41:10-16 (NIV): “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand … For I am the Lord your God who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, Do not fear; I will help you. Do not be afraid …you will rejoice in the Lord and glory in the Holy One of Israel.”
In the face of what frightens us most, when we encounter darkness and there doesn’t seem to be enough light, we need only to keep walking with God and know that he will not only save us from this death but he will also cause us to rejoice and to glory in him. 
The path won’t always be dark. It won’t always to scary. Light is coming. And it shines on the cross of Christ. 

Tuesday, October 1, 2019

Beauty in Brokenness

Hi Friends,

This week I had a lovely anniversary celebration with my husband of 31 years. The picture is of the flowers he brought me. They are gorgeous and smell heavenly. He also bought me a funny card.

But even though anniversaries are times of celebration, I can't say that every moment of marriage has been filled with wonder and joy. There have been hard times, hurts, disappointments, difficulties, and darkness.

And yet, here we are, 31 years later, happy to be married to each other despite all the ups and downs.

When I ponder that reality, I'm reminded of a story of surf pounding on rocks. No matter if Bryan and I have been in an easy phase of marriage or a difficult one, we have always thrown ourselves on the mercy and goodness of God.

And so, it has become something like this ...

Surf on the Rocks


Marlo Schalesky


            I sat on a large boulder at the beach and watched the waves crash against the rocky shore.  Beyond, the sun shone on the black water.  It glinted, then drowned in the dark expanse of water.  I turned back to the surf as it pounded against the rocks, splashed over them, glittered with myriad colors.  
            A huge outcropping of rock towered over the waves.  Again and again the surf beat against it, throwing itself against the craggy surface, withdrawing, only to do it again.  And again. And again.
            With relentless persistence, the water broke against the rock.  And still the rock didn’t move.  Only the water changed.  Shattered. Molded to the shape of the stone.
            I wrapped my arms around my knees and drew my legs close to my chest.  My gaze fell on the surf again.  On the strange color of greenish black. 
            Until it crashed against the rock.
            I sat back and watched the water splash up in an arc of pure, clean white.  Then, it changed, reflecting a rainbow of color from the sunlight.  And for that moment, it wasn’t dark.  It wasn’t murky.  It was stunningly beautiful.  But only when it was broken on the rocks.
            Paul quotes Isaiah 8:14 in Romans 9:33 (NIV), saying, “As it is written: ‘See, I lay in Zion a stone that causes men to stumble and a rock that makes them fall, and the one who trusts in him will never be put to shame.’"
            Jesus is my Rock.  He is One I fall on, cast myself upon, just like the water throws itself against the rock.  And I wondered, was I like the surf?  Is it only when I am broken on Jesus that I reflect the light, shine with a rainbow of colors?  Perhaps it is then that I am able to be molded in his shape, just like the water molds to the shape of the stone when falls back to the rock.  Then, the darkness is cleansed, the ugliness transformed, the water beautiful to behold.
            Only God can do that.
            Too many times I’ve heard people say to “just have faith.”  To them, I think it means to never doubt, never struggle, never be broken.              
            But as I sat there at the water’s edge, I began to see that real faith, true faith, is the kind that casts itself against the rock. 
            In being broken, we become beautiful. 
            Because faith - true faith - keeps coming back, despite the darkness, despite the hurt.  Faith arcs up from brokenness.  It clings to the rock.  It surrenders to the will of the immovable stone.  And so it is transformed into a thing of wonder and beauty.  Only in brokenness can it be filled with color and light.

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Blooming in the Hard Places of Life

Hi Friends,

Today, I wanted to share some thoughts about blooming in the hard places of life. On my birthday a couple weeks ago, our sweet Jenny donkey, who was very old, laid down in the pasture to die. We were able to gather around her and ease her passing, saying our goodbyes. It wasn't the birthday gift I was hoping for. Instead it was hard and sad and it hurt.

Other hard things happened that day as well, and what had started as a day to celebrate became a day to mourn.

Later that day we went to one of my favorite restaurants (The Whole Enchilada, for you locals!). And there growing in the cracks of the sidewalk was this tiny, beautiful, johnny-jump-up. I love these flowers and there it was, a tiny reminder from God that beauty can still grow in hard places. And I can still blossom and bring beauty to the world around me, too, in the dry, dreary, difficult, and unyielding places of life.

I saw too that there are always cracks where God's love and care come through to nourish me. In all situations, on all days, there is hope. There is life. There is the love and wonder of God.

So, I snapped a quick picture - it's the picture you see above. May it be a reminder to you, and to me, that there is no barrier too great for the love of God to push through, so even in the most difficult situations, I can blossom with his beauty.

Tuesday, September 3, 2019

Fighting the Real Enemy ... Together

Hi Friends, 

This week I've been thinking a lot about how we sometimes fight one another instead of focusing on the real enemies ... our spiritual adversary, fear, despair, desperation, worry, discouragement, etc. Then, I was reminded of this story from a few years ago. This story helped me to remember where to focus my energies in the battles of life. Maybe it will help you too ...

Dogs in the Chicken Coop

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. 

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Not Just Healed, But Whole ... Lesson from a Once-Wild Donkey

Hi Friends,

Does God just want you healed? Or does he want to make you whole?

Been thinking about this story about our once-wild donkey, Jenny. She's gotten a little skinny again (the others are eating up the food and are fat, and she's not getting enough) so I've moved her into another stall to help her out.

Here's what Jenny taught me about healing and wholeness:

A Once-Wild Donkey

         I spied the long ears peeking above a scraggly bush. Next came a long nose and dark, donkey eyes. Jenny peeked at me.
         I peeked at her. She was thin, ragged, terrified.
         She dropped her head.
         “It’s all right.” I shifted the load of hay in my arms and sidled closer. 
         She took one step away, then stopped and watched me with suspicious eyes.
         We’d had our recently-rescued donkey for nearly two weeks, and I still hadn’t convinced her to come to the barn and eat her hay with the horses. So every day I hauled a huge arm-load of orchard grass out to Jenny and tried to coax her to eat.
         I dropped the hay on the ground in front of her and reached out one hand to gently rub the top of her neck. Then, I ran my other hand over the faded marking that branded her as a once-wild BLM donkey. She’d been owned by an elderly couple for years and had grown out of her wildness, but she’d never quite gotten over her fear. 
When the elderly couple had moved into a nursing home, Jenny had been abandoned and left without any care. She’d become gaunt and starved, her fur tattered, her hooves overgrown and cracked.
         Now, she looked to me to make it better. And yet, even as I carried her food out to her, I could see the “if” in her eyes and I was reminded of the leper who said to Jesus, “If you are willing, you can make me clean.” (Mark 1:40, NIV)  If you are willing, you can heal me. 
         Even as she hid behind the bush, Jenny knew that I had the power to bring her what she needed. What she didn’t know is if I was willing to do it. Did I care enough? Did I love enough? Or would I abandon her, unhealed?
         Sometimes, her questions echo my own. God, I know you are able, but are you willing? Do you love me enough? When I’m hurting and afraid, when I doubt and feel weak, will you leave me in this condition or are you willing to make me whole?
         And just like I say to Jenny, and like Jesus said to the leper, God says to me, “I am willing. Be clean!” (Mark 1:41, NIV). Be whole.
         Despite her doubts, despite her fear, I was willing not only to heal Jenny’s gauntness but also heal her heart. Then, and now, I want more for her than just physical health. I envision a donkey who finds her joy, her purpose, in bringing hope and healing to disadvantaged kids at Wonder Wood Ranch. I want her to become all that she can be, to fulfill her potential and purpose and leave all her fears behind. I want to take her “if” and not only bring healing but wholeness.
         Jenny may look to me to solve her external problems of hunger and hoof-ache, but I offer her a chance to be a part of our family, to know love and have a mission and discover the joy of being a part of something wondrous.
         Today, Jenny has found the courage to eat with the horses up at the barn. I’ve fed her, given her supplements, wormed her, had the farrier out to fix her feet and the vet out to vaccinate. I’ve pet her, brushed her, cleaned her hooves, built a shelter to protect her from the rains.
         I was willing. I am willing.
         And the once-skinny, bedraggled donkey is now happy, healthy, and only sometimes runs away and hides. Usually she lets the kids at the Ranch pet her, hug her. Occasionally she is brave enough to give a kid a ride. Despite her doubts, despite her “if,” she is becoming the donkey God created her to be.
         And in my fears, in my “ifs” that is what Jesus is offering me too, just as he offered the leper. He is telling me that doubt is not a barrier to his love, that he longs for me not to just be healthy but to be whole.
         God is offering more than healing. He wants to do more than make it better. He is calling you, me, even Jenny to a mission of love as we become who we are meant to be.

Tuesday, July 23, 2019

South Sudanese Refugee Camps in Uganda

Hi Friends,

Just back from an amazing trip to minister to the South Sudanese refugees in the refugee camps in northern Uganda. For all who prayed and those who supported me, THANK YOU!! When God first invited me to join him and the rest of His team on this trip, I didn't know what a privilege it would be to be a small part of the breath-taking work he is doing in the camps and in that part of the world.

The people of South Sudan have been ravaged by horrific violence. They've fled to refugee camps scattered over the northern part of Uganda. Some are so close to their homeland that they can still see it over the border. But it's not yet safe for them to go home.

Our team was able to join them in their suffering and encourage them in their hope. We ministered to around 1,000 women, over 400 children, and also a few hundred men. My ministry focus was on the women and children. What a beautiful thing it was to connect with hurting women and be able to be with them and bring a word of hope from God. And the children. The children! Oh, they were such a joy! We shared the gospel with them as well as fun stickers and some beach balls. They have nothing and work hard just to survive, many toting around their little siblings on their backs, and yet they were so open to hearing more about Jesus. And their smiles could light the world. Just see the pictures below!

Throughout the trip (despite no hot showers, the water and electricity going out frequently and for days, food that my stomach often didn't do well with, heat, mosquitos, long drives, and bathroom facilities that were often just some tarps around a square of hard ground), I was reminded that God is near and at work among his people all over the world. I was reminded that we all are one people in Him, and that His love is enough for all of us, no matter our circumstances. God is a God of wonder and beauty, even in refugee camps halfway across the world!

Below are some pictures:

These are the tucals that many families live in (in the camps, the tents are starting to be converted over to these more permanent tucals)

Here's a kid hanging through the window in a church while he listens to the teaching for the women.

This group of kids was so attentive and awesome. The group doubled (or more) while we were working with them. 

Love this girl's smile. The kids love to have their picture taken on the phone and then be able to see themselves. They don't often (if ever) get to see themselves except in water reflections.

Lots of kids have the responsibility of taking care of their younger siblings.

This is a youth choir who prepared a song for all of us. This church is one of the fancier ones - with mud walls and a tin roof.  

Here I am with some of the kids at one of the camps. It was so wonder-FULL to work with the kids!

And here's me with yet more kids. Yay!

Wednesday, June 5, 2019

Choosing Summer Fun

Hi Friends,

Just some thoughts for the beginning of summer. May this one be one you enjoy to the fullest!


            I sat back in my lawn chair, closed my eyes, and listened to the steady chit-chit-chit of the sprinklers.  Ice melted in the glass beside me.  The sun warmed my face.  Tension oozed from my shoulders, and I sighed.  All was peaceful, calm, and ...
            Then came a shriek.
            A scream.
            A shout.
            A giggle.
            A laugh.
            A squeal of delight.  
            I opened my eyes.  There on the lawn before me twirled six little swimsuit-clad bodies, their arms waving, their cheeks sprinkled with water.  
            They stopped.  Chit-chit-chit went the sprinkler.  They positioned themselves. Three more chits, then they ran through the falling drops with their chins raised and their voices once more loud with joy. Sunlight glinted off the water in a rainbow of color.  Again they paused, again they ran, again they laughed and danced.
            On the first pass, the water made a few dark spots on their suits and hair. By the fifth run, they were completely soaked.
            “Come on, Mom, join us.  It’s fun!” Joelle raced on tiptoe through the falling drops, until her long hair streamed with water.
            I watched her and smiled.  “I’m not wearing my swimsuit.  I’m fine where I am.  You guys play.”  I motioned with my hand and settled deeper into my chair.
            The baby raised her hands and toddled through the spray of water.  The older ones followed, each laughing and squealing and shouting with joy.
            Wetter and wetter they got.
            Happier and happier they became.
            Until I realized that I had chosen poorly.  Here I sat, comfortably on my chair, outside of the spray of fun and joy. I sat.  They ran.  I sighed. They laughed.
            When did I get so dull and boring?  
            I stood up and put my hands on my hips.  Was I like this with God, too?  Did I sit on the sidelines, in my comfortable chair, while God was sprinkling his grace and love with abandon just a few feet away?  Was I too comfortable, too tired, or even too lazy to run through the sprinklers of his grace until I was soaked through and through?
            If so, I wanted to change.  If God’s grace was raining down, I wanted to be a part of it.  And not just a few dribbles, I wanted to be soaked through and through.  
            Joelle’s voice rang out again.  “Come on, Mom, get on your suit!”
            I grinned and turned toward the house.  “I’ll be right there.”  Moments later, I was dressed in my physical swimsuit, but what about my spiritual one? What kind of “suit” would prepare me for running through the sprinklers of God’s grace?
            As I thought about the question, Colossians 2:6-7 (NIV) came to mind: “So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.”  I pondered the last part of the verse until I began to glimpse the truth.  God had called me to be overflowing with thankfulness.  That was the “suit” I needed.  When thankfulness covers me, clothes me, I’m ready to receive the droplets of his grace, the pouring out of his love.  A thankful spirit is the suit that’s made especially for running through the water with joy.  
            I jogged down the front steps and out onto the lawn.  Then, I raised my face, listened to the steady chit-chit-chit, and ran.  I squealed, I giggled, I laughed.  My kids laughed with me.  And that’s when I knew that I didn’t want to miss the fun anymore, not on the front lawn and not in life with God.  I needed to keep on my suit of thankfulness and see where God was sprinkling his grace -- in church, in books, in serving others, in reading my Bible, in quiet walks, in times with good friends -- so I could put myself in a position for the water to fall on me.  
            If I do that, then I can run with abandon.  I can shriek and scream, laugh and squeal. I can dance through the sprinklers of his grace again and again until I’m soaked with the wonder of his love. That’s the way I want to live, everyday!