Welcome to the blog of author Marlo Schalesky!

Wednesday, May 13, 2020

The Truth about Biblical Submission

Hi Friends,

Women of the Bible Speak Out releases in less than 3 weeks (pre-order now!)! This one may be a little controversial since I am looking beyond our cultural Christianity to search out what the Bible really says to women. One of those controversial topics is biblical submission.


Here's just a bit of what Abigail's story from 1 Samuel 25 tells us about what submission truly is:

The Truth About Submission
            So what’s the truth about submission? Does it mean going along with whatever the man says? Submitting to foolishness and folly? Clearly, that is not the definition supported by scripture. But neither is confrontation and control. 
            Wisdom and righteousness are the basis of the kind of submission laid out by scripture. Our lives are not to be a jockeying for position, to be above, or to be below. Rather, as Ephesians says, we, are to “Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.” We listen, we heed, we value the other person. We consider his needs as well as our own. 
            But when his decisions are those of danger and folly, then we cannot and should not follow. Submitting means submitting to wisdom, submitting to what’s right, submitting to God.
            And yet, the truth often is that we don’t do what’s right because we’re afraid. We use submission as an excuse to capitulate to sin. It’s a risk to stand up and do the right thing. But if we are to follow God we have to dare to submit, and that means to do what is right even when it’s different from what our husband commands. It means to do right when it’s scary, when it’s risky, when we’re afraid. 
            
Submission looks like Abigail. It looks like the fruit of the spirit (Galatians 5:22-23):
Love: Putting the needs and well-being of others first, in hope and faith.
Joy: For the joy set before us, we endure, looking to Jesus.
Peace: Focusing not on his flaws and foolishness, but on God and trusting him as you follow what he is calling you to do.
Patience: Letting God take the lead. You don’t need to fix your husband, your boss, your father, or any other man in your life. Watch and wait as God moves. Cooperative with God.
Kindness: Choose to be kind. Being mean to a mean person isn’t God’s way. We don’t have to give in to foolishness, but we don’t have to be nasty back either. Submission is being kind while we pursue the righteousness of God to the benefit of not only ourselves but the very one who is being unkind.
Goodness: Do right no matter what, even when it’s scary. Even when it’s risky. Don’t use another’s sin and stupidity to excuse your actions, your “going along with it” when you know something’s wrong. Be good. Do right.
Faithfulness: Let no one cause you to sin. Submission means a commitment to faithfully living your life in accordance with God’s will. A man may be terrible, abusive, “Harsh and badly behaved,” but don’t also give him the power to destroy you by pushing you into sin! Be faithful. Hold fast to your integrity. You submit by clinging with white-knuckled fists to faithfulness, no matter your situation. This is the power of true submission, even, especially to a harsh, foolish man – you do not let him destroy your faith and integrity … and if he already has, repent. Faithfulness can start today. Right now. It’s worth it!
Gentleness: Gentleness is not the same as spinelessness. Rather, it is the quiet commitment to walk in the ways of God, to love, to have mercy, especially when everything in you wants to yell back, accuse, condemn, sneer and spew in words of hate. spit and take revenge with words. 
Self-Control: The key to submission is self-control – the control needed to do right instead of getting back at him, or cringing away in fear. Self-control allows us to seek God, and to remember who we are. Remember who you are. You are a daughter of the King, you are the bride of Christ. You are precious. You are loved. You are confident. You are faithful and gentle and good and kind. You belong to the God of all the universe, your Creator, and he loves you. 

Wednesday, April 29, 2020

A Good Time to Evaluate Life . . .

Hi Friends,

As the shelter-at-home continues on, I'm finding this is a good time to evaluate life and identify the "poison oak" that may be choking out the life that God has for me. I'm finding this story helpful, especially as the poison oak is beginning to flourish again here at the Ranch.

Maybe you'll find this story helpful in this time as well . . .




It was tall.  It was green.  It was bushy.  But something wasn’t right.  
I crossed my arms and looked up at the fat, green oak tree.  Beside me, my husband sighed.  I shook my head.  “I don’t want to do it.  Do you want to do it?”
“I don’t want to do it.”
I stepped back.  “Someone’s got to do it.”
“It’s an ugly job.”
“That thing will be right outside the window once we build the cabin.  We can’t have it looking like that.”
“I know.  But still . . .”  Bryan crossed his arms over his chest.
I put my hand on my hips.
            For a moment, we both stared at the oak and didn’t say a word.  Shiny green and red leaves poked from all parts of the tree.  But they weren’t oak leaves.  Thick vines twisted around the trunk and branches.  Those didn’t belong to the oak either. 
            I shivered.
            The green wasn’t the green of a healthy oak.  Instead it was a sign of poison.  A huge batch of poison oak had grown up into the tree and twined around every branch.  The tree was thick with it.  Lush and green, but with nasty poison.
            Bryan tugged on his sleeves.  “Okay, I’ll do it then.  But get the bleach ready for the laundry.”
            Four hours later, the laundry was in, Bryan was taking a cool shower, and the tree was clear.  I tromped up the hill and looked at it.  It wasn’t lush anymore.  And it wasn’t green.  Scraggly branches with a few sad leaves spread from the trunk and reached toward the sky.  
            “Ugh, it looks awful,” I murmured.  
            As I looked at the now-bare soil beneath it, I noticed there were no acorns scattered on the ground, and no little baby oaks growing around it. 
            Then it struck me.  That big, strong oak was stifled by that little vine.  The oak was bigger, taller, thicker, and more established.  And yet, that small, thin, poisonous weed had nearly choked the life from it.  
            As I stood and gazed at the tree, I was reminded of Jesus’ parable from Matthew 13, Mark 4, and Luke 8.  In that story, seed fell on four different types of soil.  In the third, the seed sprouted among thorns and the life was choked out the plants, just as the poison oak had choked the oak tree.  Jesus likened the thorns to the worries of this life, the deceitfulness of wealth, and desires for other things.
            If something as small as poison oak could choke the life from a big, strong oak, how much more vulnerable was I to worry and wrong desires?  After all, there are so many things in life to worry about – finances, schooling, job concerns, health, family crises.  It’s easy to allow those to twine around my mind and shove poisonous leaves through my branches until there are acorns of God’s word dropping into my daily life.  No little oaks springing up around me.  I had to ask if I was producing any kind of crop in God’s Kingdom.  Was it growing stronger through me, or was I just barely getting by?  
            As I asked those questions, I realized that I had some poison oak in my life – worries that kept me from focusing on God, goals I was pursuing that were good but weren’t God’s plan, things that were distracting me from fully living the life God had for me.  And just like we did for the oak tree, I had to cut off the poison oak at its base and peel away all the vines from the branches of my life. 
Over the past few years, we’ve kept the poison oak away from that oak tree, and now the tree is full, healthy, and green with leaves all its own.  In time, it recovered from the stranglehold of the poison oak.  It became the beautiful tree God meant it to be.
And I know that if I, too, keep the thorns away, I can be full of the greenness of true life.  I can be all God intends me to be.  I can be a tall, strong oak in the Kingdom of God.

Wednesday, April 15, 2020

Stay on the Path!

Hi Friends,


Here are some thoughts from our Wonder Wood Ranch work for staying on the path and being wise during this time in history . . .


Watch Out for Poison Oak!

Marlo Schalesky

            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?”
            “Wolves?”
            “Zombies?”
            “Monsters?”
            “Snakes?”
            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!

Monday, March 30, 2020

Your Response to the COVID-19 Predator...

Hi Friends,

COVID-19 is like a predator, most specifically, a mountain lion. And she's come down the hill hunting us, her prey. How do we respond? Consider the story below . . .

(Note: I often use this story when talking to kids, especially gang-impacted kids about fear and our response to the scary things of life. This story seemed particularly appropriate given what's going on in the world, and in our communities today . . .)


The Yellow Eyes of Fear

by 
Marlo Schalesky

            
            It was such a normal morning.  Quiet.  Boring, as I walked out to feed our two horses.  The air was crisp, the sun just peeking over the pines, the grass still sparkling with dew.  A regular morning.  Calm, uneventful . . . until I turned a corner and saw the horses’ pens.
            I stopped.  There, one of the heavy-gauge metal panels lay twisted and on its side.  The metal bars were bent and torn.  I ran forward.  
            The horse was gone.
            A moment later, I reached the smashed up mess that had been part of the horse pen.  Chunks of palomino fur lay on the dirt, the only remnants of the 1,300 pound gelding who had somehow crumbled the thick metal and escaped.  
            I glanced at our other horse.  She stood inside her pen trembling, her nostrils flared with fierce snorts.  
            “What’s wrong, girl?  Where’s Biscuit?”  I strove to keep the panic from my voice.
            She snorted some more, then raced around her pen and stared up into the hills.  
            I jogged around the pen to the far side.  I looked up into the hills.  And saw nothing.  I peered into the trees to the left.  Nothing.  Down the road.  Nothing. 
            Then I looked down.
            And understood.
            There, clearly pressed in the mud, were two huge paw prints.  Cat paws.  And next to them were two sets of smaller prints.  I shivered.  Mountain lions.  No wonder the horses were scared.  
            I bent lower and tracked the prints.  The cats, a mama and a couple cubs, had come down the hill and stopped fifteen feet outside the mare’s pen.  Then, according to the prints, they turned around and ran back into the brush.  They didn’t enter the pens or harm the horses.  They just stood there, then ran away.
            But that was enough for Biscuit.  Enough to drive him wild with fear.  To cause him to climb out of his pen and smash up the metal panel as he went.  Enough to make him run away from food, from shelter, from the ones who cared for him.
            We spent the rest of the day searching for our missing horse (and replacing the broken panel).  Hours later, we found Biscuit.  In the middle of the night, he had run off in a direction he’d never been before.  He’d traveled almost a mile down dangerous two-lane road, crossed it, then found his way to a barbed wire pasture.  He could have been hit, gotten cut, or been killed.  He hadn’t drunk any water, eaten anything but some snatches of grass, and had long tears where his back legs scraped against the metal fence.  
            As I led him back to his pen, to water, to food, to shelter, to safety, I thought about what drove him to escape.  Fear did that.  Simple, primitive, instinctual fear.  The mountain lion and her cubs hadn’t endangered him at all.  It was the escape that put him in real danger. 
            And I wondered if fear does the same thing to me.  Something scary appears on the horizon of my life.  Maybe it doesn’t actually threaten me, or come into my space.  I just catch a whiff of it in the air, see a bit of tawny fur on the outskirts of my vision.  I see the possibilities, sense what could happen if the lion attacks.
            How easy it is in those circumstances to run, to panic, to do things that don’t make sense.  Fear is like that.  It can tempt me to hurt myself, put myself in danger, leave the place where I am fed and cared for.  Instead of trusting God’s care, I, too, want to scrape and scrabble, fend for myself, throw myself into desperate acts to get away from the thing that scares me.  And in doing so, I put myself in the worst danger of all.
            Maybe that’s why the command to not be afraid appears more than three hundred times in the Bible.  Hebrews 13:6 (NIV) tells how to respond when fear comes out of the hills and stares at us with yellow eyes.  It says, “So we say with confidence, ‘The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid.’"
            So, instead scrambling out of the fences in our lives and running down dangerous roads to unknown pastures, God calls us to stay calm, trust Him, and remain in his will.  He calls us not to fear the mountain lions, but to trust in the boundaries he places around us.

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Finding Faith, Beating Fear

Hi Friends,

As we are in "shelter in place" now in our county and the world seems to have erupted with fear and anxiety over the Covid-19 virus, I was reminded of this little story from when my daughter, Bria, was trampled by her horse. As you choose today between faith and fear, I hope this story will help you to be the person you hope to be in the crisis that is unfolding around us.

Faith or Fear?
Marlo Schalesky


            The door burst open. Bethany rushed through, her thirteen-year-old sister screaming in her arms.
            I leapt from the couch. “What happened?”
            “Comet trampled her.” 
            Bria loved her new horse. She spent hours with him, and nothing like this had ever happened before.
            Bethany hurried to the couch and laid a writhing Bria on it. I knelt beside her. “Where does it hurt?”
            Tears streamed down her face as she pointed to her pelvis and upper thighs. “My lower back too,” she gasped.
            Ever so carefully we pulled off her jeans and examined the deep, already-forming bruises. 
            “Can you move your toes?”
            She did. “He, he got scared.” She spoke between sobs. “Didn’t know what he was doing. Ran right over me.”
            I frowned. “Do you think anything’s broken?”
            She gulped. “I don’t know. Ahhhhh!” A yowl burst from her lips as my fingers barely brushed the bruises. “It hurts. It hurts really bad.” She choked on a sob as I rose and turned to a terrified Bethany. 
            “I’m going to bring the car to the front door. Can you get her in the back seat?”
            Bethany bit her lip and nodded.
            I ran for the car and drove it as close to the door as I could. Bethany scooped up Bria and laid her in the back seat. 
            Then we sped to the emergency room of our local hospital. Bethany lifted Bria and raced her inside. I parked and hurried after them.
            By the time I entered, Bria was already sitting at the nurse’s station, describing in gasps what had happened.
            “I was leading my horse up the hill to the round pen like I always do. Everything was normal. But then something happened. Something rustled in the bushes. I don’t know. He got scared. I tried to calm him, but he wouldn’t listen. He pulled away. Then pushed me down. Trampled me as he ran off into the poison oak.”
            The nurse then typed in notes about her injuries and called for a bed. Moments later, Bria was rolled inside, given painkillers, and scheduled for numerous tests and scans that would happen in the following hours.
            Late that night a doctor entered Bria’s hospital room and smiled. Then he shook his head. “I don’t know how, but she’s going to be okay. There are no broken bones or internal injuries.” He glanced at Bria. “It’s going to hurt like crazy for several days, and I suggest you use crutches, but I don’t anticipate any problems with you healing right up.”
            After a collective sigh of relief, Bria was fitted for crutches, and we headed home. Halfway there, I glanced over at Bria. “What are we going to do about Comet?”
            She sighed. “He just needs to learn to not lose his head when he’s scared. He just needs to learn to trust me.”
            Profound words from a thirteen-year-old girl who just had the scariest experience of her life.  In all her pain, all her fear, she had kept her head. I had too (you have to when your kid gets hurt!). Comet had not. In his fear, he had hurt the person who loves him most in all the world. He had run right over her. 
            In Isaiah 41:10 (NIV), God tells us, “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.” 
            Unlike Comet, we need to trust the One who leads us to where we need to be. When there’s something rustling in the bushes, when we see something flapping out of the corner of our eye, we have a choice. Faith or fear? Do we stay calm and keep following the One who is taking us up the hill to the place where we can grow stronger? Or do we let fear dominate our actions so that we turn on the ones who love us and hurt them?
            Fear hurts, not only the one who’s afraid, but also everyone around them. It tramples, it bruises, then it runs off into places filled with poison.
            But we don’t have to fear. In the months since the accident, Comet has learned how to trust, how to have faith, despite his fears. We can too. 
            Even in the face of triggers, of things that have scared us or gone wrong in the past, God is asking us to trust the One leading us to higher ground.

Wednesday, March 4, 2020

Feeling Choked by Life's Worries? Here's Help!

Hi Friends,


It's poison oak season again here at Wonder Wood Ranch, and it's been a very busy season too ... and so I reminded of this story that I wrote a few years ago . . .


The Choked Oak

Marlo Schalesky

It was tall.  It was green.  It was bushy.  But something wasn’t right.  
I crossed my arms and looked up at the fat, green oak tree.  Beside me, my husband sighed.  I shook my head.  “I don’t want to do it.  Do you want to do it?”
“I don’t want to do it.”
I stepped back.  “Someone’s got to do it.”
“It’s an ugly job.”
“That thing will be right outside the window once we build the cabin.  We can’t have it looking like that.”
“I know.  But still . . . ”  Bryan crossed his arms over his chest.
I put my hand on my hips.
            For a moment, we both stared at the oak and didn’t say a word.  Shiny green and red leaves poked from all parts of the tree.  But they weren’t oak leaves.  Thick vines twisted around the trunk and branches.  Those didn’t belong to the oak either. 
            I shivered.
            The green wasn’t the green of a healthy oak.  Instead it was a sign of poison.  A huge batch of poison oak had grown up into the tree and twined around every branch.  The tree was thick with it.  Lush and green, but with nasty poison.
            Bryan tugged on his sleeves.  “Okay, I’ll do it then.  But get the bleach ready for the laundry.”
            Four hours later, the laundry was in, Bryan was taking a cool shower, and the tree was clear.  I tromped up the hill and looked at it.  It wasn’t lush anymore.  And it wasn’t green.  Scraggly branches with a few sad leaves spread from the trunk and reached toward the sky.  
            “Ugh, it looks awful,” I murmured.  
            As I looked at the now-bare soil beneath it, I noticed there were no acorns scattered on the ground, and no little baby oaks growing around it. 
            Then it struck me.  That big, strong oak was stifled by that little vine.  The oak was bigger, taller, thicker, and more established.  And yet, that small, thin, poisonous weed had nearly choked the life from it.  
            As I stood and gazed at the tree, I was reminded of Jesus’ parable from Matthew 13, Mark 4, and Luke 8.  In that story, seed fell on four different types of soil.  In the third, the seed sprouted among thorns and the life was choked out the plants, just as the poison oak had choked the oak tree.  Jesus likened the thorns to the worries of this life, the deceitfulness of wealth, and desires for other things.
            If something as small as poison oak could choke the life from a big, strong oak, how much more vulnerable was I to worry and wrong desires?  After all, there are so many things in life to worry about – finances, schooling, job concerns, health, family crises.  It’s easy to allow those to twine around my mind and shove poisonous leaves through my branches until there are acorns of God’s word dropping into my daily life.  No little oaks springing up around me.  I had to ask if I was I producing any kind of crop in God’s Kingdom.  Was it growing stronger through me, or was I just barely getting by?  
            As I asked those questions, I realized that I had some poison oak in my life – worries that kept me from focusing on God, goals I was pursuing that were good but weren’t God’s plan, things that were distracting me from fully living the life God had for me.  And just like we did for the oak tree, I had to cut off the poison oak at its base and peel away all the vines from the branches of my life. 
Over the past few years, we’ve kept the poison oak away from that oak tree, and now the tree is full, healthy, and green with leaves all its own.  In time, it recovered from the stranglehold of the poison oak.  It became the beautiful tree God meant it to be.
And I know that if I, too, keep the thorns away, I can be full of the greenness of true life.  I can be all God intends me to be.  I can be a tall, strong oak in the Kingdom of God.

Tuesday, February 18, 2020

Women of the Bible Speak Out - Concept and Cover Reveal!

Hi Friends,

I wanted to share with you the new cover for my next book, releasing on June 1st. Here it is!



And here's the original concept for the book...

The recent #MeToo movement has given voice to millions of women struggling through experiences of gender-based harassment and/or physical violence. What’s been overlooked in this needed, new conversation is that the problem isn’t new. In fact, the Bible is filled with women who endured undeserved abuse and hardship from men—living in societies that treated them as second-class citizens, where their lives were subject to systematic male domination legally, religiously, socially, in their own families and homes.
What if the women of Scripture could speak out in a #MeToo movement of their own? 
What stories would they would tell? 
What would they reveal about God, and faith, and life? 
How did an oppressed and/or victimized woman encounter God in biblical times? How did these women keep faith when they’re bodies were considered “spoils of war” or the properties of their husbands? When they were socially outcast simply for being infertile, or being unwed? How did these women approach God? How did God meet those girls, communicate his love and goodness to them? What did they learn about God’s goodness in the midst of harshness? What can women today learn from the lives they led?
Perhaps it’s time we found out.

Tuesday, February 4, 2020

Wearied by Brokenness? You're Not Alone!

Hi Friends,


I'm preparing to travel too Michigan next week to record the audio version of my upcoming book, Women of the Bible Speak Out. I've never done my own audio for a book before, so this will be quite an experience!

So, as I prepare, I thought I'd share a bit that I cut from the first chapter of the new book (the chapter that looks at Eve). This includes some of the women that are covered in the various chapters of Women of the Bible Speak Out.

So, now for a bit of a preview, and a bit of hope for anyone weary of living in a broken world ... God is with you. Don't give up!

SECTION CUT:

God tells us that sin is not the end of the story. He tells us he has been working to redeem every tear, every injustice, every hurt that results from sin. We know because Eve isn’t the end of the story either. Many women come after her.
            --Sarai, who was betrayed by her husband not once but twice, and put in sexually compromising positions. She was co-holder of the covenant of redemption between God and mankind, that all nations would be blessed through her offspring.
            --Hagar, given like property to a foreign man to bear a son who was not intended to be her own. She became the mother of great nations.
            --Lot’s daughters who were offered up for the worst kind of abuse. Yet God saw them and saved them.
            --Tamar, who was cast aside when her husband died and offered no justice. She made her own justice and was blessed.
            --Hannah, who was devalued for her infertility and driven to despair. She became the mother of Samuel who would speak for God to kings and the nation of Israel.
            --Abigail, whose husband’s foolishness nearly resulted in her death. But God gave her wisdom and a future.
            --Bathesheba, who lost both a husband and a son to the arrogance of one man, who was chosen for the line of Christ himself.
            --Esther, who was dominated by a foreign rule and a foreign king, who rose to save her people.
            --Mary, who was oppressed not by man but by another woman, and was defended by Jesus himself.
            --A Samaritan woman who was so ashamed of her #MeToo past that she went to the well in the heat of the day, and encountered a savior who set her free.
            --A sinful woman, scorned by the male leaders of her people, praised by Christ with a promise of remembrance.
            --A woman caught in adultery, dragged before courts, threatened with stoning while her partner got off scot-free. Forgiven and given a new start.
            --Women at the tomb of Jesus, doubted and disbelieved, the first witnesses to the most wondrous event of all time. The first witnesses to the resurrection that redeemed us all. 
            And the list goes on. These women lived in the broken world created by Adam and Eve, and yet discovered a God of redemption and hope. They did not give up. They did not give in to hate or despair. And they stand as witnesses to us all that we need not be beaten. God stands with us. He will always stand with us.

Tuesday, January 21, 2020

Living in the Messy Parts of Life

Hi Friends,




Here's what I'm thinking about lately as the Ranch here turns into a muddy mess . . .



Winter Wonderland?

Marlo Schalesky



In winter, we don’t get snow. We get rain. A lot of it. It falls from the sky in tiny sprinkles, in waving sheets, in giant bucket-dumping sloshes until driveways glisten and puddles form enticing pools for kids to jump in with their new canvas tennis shoes. It rains until potholes become craters and horse pens become mud baths. 
Until there’s nothing but mud and muck and mess.
I’m a much bigger fan of spring. At least, I used to be.
After all, the winter slog is the same every year. I slip on oversized rubber boots, tramp through swamp-like terrain to clean horse stalls, scoop out puddle-filled pig pens, and scrap gunk off equines who have all become the same dark brown color of soggy dirt. Palominos, greys, whites, chestnuts, and duns … all the color of wet earth. Then I trudge back home. I wipe doggie feet. I wash shoes. I clean too many floors. I do it all over again the next day. 
And I thank God for the rain because I live in California where there have been too many years of drought.
But mud is no fun. Muck can be discouraging. And nobody likes a mess.
We like life to be tidy. We like it to go according to plan, our ducks in a row, our horses all their natural colors. Just as it should be.
We like the spring. Winter is too messy.
Yet, as I pull on the big rubber boots one more time, grab a shovel, and head to the barn, I notice something. The patches of clover that died in the fall have started to come to life again. A few bright yellow flowers dot a landscape that had turned to dust. And the little sprigs I planted months ago, the ones that refused to grow in the autumn heat, have perked up their heads and have just begun to look more like plants than dried weeds. 
Maybe the mess and muck and mud aren’t so bad after all. Maybe it’s precisely in the mess that new life can take root … on the path to the barn and in life.
 After all, it was through the mud of the parted Red Sea that God led his people out of slavery and to a new life of freedom (Exodus 14). It was in the muck of a stable that the Savior and Messiah was born and God became human is the mess of childbirth (Luke 2). And it was through the mire and horror of beatings and a bloody death on a Roman cross that redemption and reconciliation were won for us all. 
Perhaps God does his best work in the mud and messes of life.
And so, maybe, it is time to be a fan of winter. Because winter reminds us that it is often in the yuck of life that God works most powerfully to bring new life, new hope, and amazing redemption. It’s in the messy places that we find new ways to bloom through his grace. Those places in life where rain has come instead of snow and it’s made a mess of things, those times when we have to put on the big boots and muddle through as best we can, those areas of life that aren’t neat and tidy as we hoped and planned … those are the very places in which God is most deeply at work to bring new growth and new life.  It’s in the messiest parts of life that we most fully encounter God’s wonder.
So as I’m slogging through the mud of winter, wiping away grimy paw prints yet again, scrubbing shoes that were once clean, and dreaming of the picture-perfect scenes of spring, I remind myself that it’s here, in the mess, that I encounter the beauty of an active and loving God. It’s here that I find him with sleeves rolled up, working to bring me out of slavery, to come into my world and give me good news of great joy, and to redeem all the mud and muck for his glory. 
It is here that I encounter God’s winter wonderland. And today, I am glad that it’s winter.

Tuesday, January 7, 2020

Hitting the Mark in 2020

Hi Friends,

As I'm thinking about this new year, I'm reminded that archery is a lot like life, and the practices of hitting the mark with an arrow help with hitting the mark in life. Read on to see if you agree . . .


Loosen Your Grip

            Her grip tightened on the bow. She drew back the string. The arrow wobbled. Her knuckles whitened. 
            “Bethany, wait.”
            She didn’t wait. The arrow flew from the string, missed the target, and skittered off into the grass. 
            She strung another arrow.
            “Wait!”
            “What?”
            I strode over to her. “You’re never going to hit the target like that. First, you have to anchor the string.” I showed her how to place her thumb at the corner of her mouth so the string would be pulled back and anchored at the same place on her face every time. 
            “That feels weird. I don’t like it.”
            “It doesn’t matter if it’s weird. It’s the only way to aim properly. If you don’t, you’re not looking down the same line every time. You think you’re aiming straight, but you’re not. You can’t go by how you feel.” 
            Bethany anchored the string at the corner of her mouth.
            I nodded. “Good.” 
            “Can I let go?”
            “Not yet. Loosen your grip.” I touched her left hand that held the bow. “The arrow won’t fly straight if you’ve got a death grip on the bow. Relax, loosen your fingers, let the bow do what it’s made for.”
            She glanced at me askance, string still anchored, brows furrowed. Her fingers stayed tight around the bow.
            “You can do it.” I caught her glance, understanding that desire to grab on as tight as possible in a vain effort to force the arrow straight. Instinct screamed, “Hold tight!” but wisdom whispered to loosen her grip.
            Slowly, slowly, her knuckles turned from white to pink. Her fingers relaxed.
            I smiled. “Now you’re ready. Let go.”
            The arrow flew from the bow and thunked into the target. Not a bulls-eye, but a respectable hit all the same.
            “Whoo! This is great!” 
            I chuckled. “Try again.”
            She did.
            “Anchor the string. Loosen your grip.” As I repeated the instructions, I realized they were not only good tips for archery, but for life. 
            If we want our life-arrows to hit the target, we must anchor the string. In Ephesians 6:14 (NIV), Paul says, “Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist...” If we are to aim our lives well, to see the target properly, we must stand firm and be anchored in truth. Culture would have our arrows flying every which way as we believed whatever whim was popular at the moment. Culture tells us to look out for number one, that relationships are meant for our happiness, that we should be the gods of our own lives. When we live our lives that way, our arrows miss the God’s target and go skittering off into sin, discouragement, and emptiness. But anchored in God’s truth, we look down the arrow’s shaft and clearly see where we should aim.
            Next, we must relax our fingers. It’s so easy to hang on tight, white-knuckled, and think that by trying to control life we can master it, we can hit the target. Desperate prayers for a lost love one, desperate clinging to hopes and dreams, desperate desires to have life just the way we imagined it should be, desperate determination that God act the way we want. Tight fists miss the target. We must trust God enough to loosen our grip. Psalm 21:7 says, “For the king trusts in the Lord; through the unfailing love of the Most High he will not be shaken.” And again, Psalm 28:7 says, “The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in him, and he helps me.” When we trust God, our frantic fingers can relax. Only then can our arrows fly straight.
            Lately when I find my life missing the mark and shooting off into the grass, I remind myself to re-anchor my life in the truth. Then I ask God to relax my grip, calm my desperation, help me to trust him more than I trust myself, trust him enough to let go and do what I was made to do.
            When I see terrorist strikes on the news, or encounter children brought up to believe in Christ who no longer believe, or face crazy blood sugar numbers on the meter of my son who has Type 1 Diabetes ... When I lose a job, when sales aren’t what I’d hoped, when children’s grades aren’t what I’d expected, when relationships are strained... that is the time I must whisper to myself, “Relax your hand, take a deep breath, anchor the string.”  
            And then I let go.