Welcome to the blog of author Marlo Schalesky!

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.