Welcome to the blog of author Marlo Schalesky!

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

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.