Welcome to the blog of author Marlo Schalesky!

Friday, January 23, 2015

The Truth about Lies and Brokenness

Hi Friends,

Bethany turns 15 tomorrow (15!!??!!), and I was thinking back to when she was younger and learned a lesson from a broken door that I knew would be helpful especially in her teens…and it has been.  Not only for her, but for me too.

So, for those broken places in you, and in me, here's a story that has made a difference in how I deal with the brokenness …

It happened like this:
“Jayna!”  I roared the name of my three-year-old daughter and glared at the cabinet door that sat mangled on the carpet in front of me.  “Get in here!”
Jayna came running.
I stabbed my finger at the broken door.  “Did you do that?”  It was a good guess that Jayna was the culprit, even though she had four other siblings.  Of the all the things broken in the house, Jayna had caused 95% of them.  We didn’t call her ‘little monkey’ for nothing.  So, when something turned up broken, Jayna was the first one I called.
Except this time, she didn’t hide her face and pretend she didn’t understand.  This time, she looked at me with wide, innocent eyes and said, “Bet-a-nee break it.”
I frowned.  “Are you sure?”  It had been a long time since Jayna’s nine-year-old sister had done anything like break a cabinet door.
Jayna smiled.  “Yes.  Bet-a-nee do it.”
I picked up the broken door and walked into the other room where Bethany was practicing piano.  “Do you know how this got broken?”  I waved the piece in her direction.
She paused, then shrugged.  “I dunno.”
“Did you do it?”  Doubt edged my voice.
She plunked her fingers down on the piano keys and shook her head. “No.”
I frowned.
She fidgeted.
I shifted the door into my other hand.
Her face turned red.  Then, she started to bawl.  “Yes, I did it.  I did it,” she hollered.   Between sobs, she told about how she sat on the door just like we'd told her not to do, and it broke, and she lied, and, and, and . . . and she didn't want to get in trouble.  Waaaa....
About three minutes into her big confession, I was trying to not grin.  Not because I was happy that the door was broken, but because I was starting to see all the great lessons I could help Bethany glean from this one incident, lessons that would be essential for her to learn, especially as she drew closer to her teen years.
So, once the sobbing subsided, Bethany and I settled in for a good talk.  We discussed how Mommy and Daddy are wise. It's best to do what they say.  And if you fail to obey and do something stupid, it's best to fess up right away. Otherwise you end up carrying your mistake around with you.  Then, we talked about how it’s better to repent fast.  Don't make excuses. Just say, “I did something dumb. I know you said not to, but I did it anyway, and I'm really sorry.”  Next, we covered how lying is worse than the original offense. Sitting on the cabinet door may cause broken furniture, but lying causes brokenness inside. And that's a lot harder to fix.  But if you do let a lie slip out, fix it with the truth right away. The longer the lie sits inside you, the more damage it does. A lie is like giving yourself a cut.  The longer it festers without the medicine of the truth, the sicker it makes you.  And finally, if you lie, someone else may get in trouble for what you did, and that's not fair.
By the time we were finished, I began to wonder if God had allowed that door to break just to give me the chance to teach Bethany the rich, character-forming lessons that would help her navigate her future.  And of course that got me thinking about the "broken doors" in my life.  Perhaps some things in my life had fallen apart so I could learn valuable life lessons too. Maybe instead of shifting the blame and trying to deny my mistakes, I needed to see them as an opportunity to change, learn, and grow.
After all, Hebrews 12:6-7 (NIV) says, “the Lord disciplines those he loves . . . Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as sons.” In other words, perhaps God allows hard things in my life so I can learn the same lessons as Bethany.  God is wise. It's best to do what He says.  If I fail, go to Him quickly in prayer and say, "I messed up!"  Don't make excuses. Don't lie - not to others, and not to myself.  Embrace the truth even when it's hard to hear and accept.
And most of all, how I react to the broken parts of my life matters not only to me, but to others, especially those I love.  What I say and do, my character, matters not just to me and God, but to them too. 

So maybe, just maybe, it’s time I complain less about the broken doors of life and instead look for the ways God can make me whole through them.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Impossible? Think Again!

Hi Friends,

When I was well into my 40's, a baby girl was born into our family  born to a woman who had traveled for over 20 years on the path of infertility.  Born when I was sure that any chance for another baby was dead and buried.
            But God has a way of transforming death.
            And that changes everything.
My baby girl turns four tomorrow.  And today, as I kiss my little girl and gaze into her wide, brown eyes, as she giggles and wipes her boogers across her cheek, as she throws her arms wide for a hug from Mommy, I hold her tight and can barely breathe for the wonder of it.
God did this.  He did it with the same power, the same love, that raised Jesus from the dead.  He resurrected my dead hope.  He made a way, a miracle.
Does it always happen that way? No. Does God always give the barren woman a houseful of children? Does he always cure cancer? Does he always save prodigals? Does he always mend marriages?
But he has risen from the dead. And that still changes everything. There is always hope because Jesus defeated our last enemy. He defeated death itself.
And so there is nothing—NOTHING—that cannot be transformed by his love, the same love, the same power, that rose Jesus from the grave.
Nothing is impossible. Nothing is hopeless. Nothing is beyond his reach.
I remember that today as my miracle girl spends her last day as a three-year-old.  I remember, and I rejoice.  

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Are We Supposed to Suffer?

Hi Friends,

As some of you have heard, my 11-year-old lost her much-loved rescue pony, Pippin, this week to a freak accident.  She lost her pet rat the next day, and went to school the following day for the first time after her best friend moved away.  It's been quite a week of heart-breaking loss for one little girl.

As we've been grieving, finding comfort in Christ's love, and missing the ones we've lost (especially our sweet little Pip! - happiest horse I've ever known), I've been thinking of Simeon's "blessing" to Mary.  In Luke 2, he takes baby Jesus in his arms, says a prayer and a blessing, and then says this to Mary:  "A sword will pierce your own soul…"  It is his blessing for her.  A strange blessing.  But I am understanding it more this week.

So, for everyone who has felt the soul-piercing sword in their own lives, here's a bit from WRESTLING WITH WONDER that I've been pondering this week, that has encouraged me.  Maybe you will find hope here too:

Chapter 6 Excerpt:
“A sword will pierce your own soul,” Simeon says, “so that ...” In the Greek, it’s a tiny conjunction: hopos. Most simply, it means “in order that.” But in reality, it means so much more. It means that everything Simeon has spoken of—division, opposition, and the piercing of the soul—doesn’t happen for nothing. There is purpose in the pain. There is meaning in the suffering. And that matters. It happens not just so Mary can suffer, so we can suffer, but it happens “so that ...”
            So yes, Mary was called to suffer. But not for suffering’s sake, but for a purpose—for revelation. “So that the thoughts from many hearts may be revealed,” Simeon says, using the same word that appeared just a few verses above when he sang that Jesus would be a light of revelation (apocalypto, in the Greek) to the Gentiles. Revelation: meaning something we cannot know unless God himself shows us. We can’t see it unless he pulls back the curtain with his own hand. This is a seeing, an understanding, that comes through the work of God himself, God alone.
            And according to the Spirit’s words through Simeon, revelation comes through suffering,
through the sword that pierces all the way to the soul. Through suffering, the thoughts of our hearts are revealed. Through suffering we see the hand of God.
            Our souls are laid bare in our suffering.
            And that’s the way it’s supposed to be.
            There is purpose in the pain.
            So is Mary intended to suffer? Are you? Am I? Simeon says yes. It is part of walking with him, being his. Falling, rising, division, opposition, rejection, piercing pain ... leading to revelation.
            Because since the promise of the coming Messiah has been fulfilled, favor and blessing now must include the soul-piercing sword. God has redefined favor. He has introduced a new type of blessing.
            Yes, we are meant to struggle. We are favored with sorrow. We are blessed with suffering. We are called to be like him. It’s not intended to be easy. It never was.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Are You on a Journey to Bethlehem?

Hi Friends,

In this week before Christmas, as I continue to recover from surgery (talk about a LONG journey!), I am pondering Mary's trip to Bethlehem.  Some of you, like me, are on a difficult journey right now.  You're stumbling along, heavy and weary. Take heart!  Mary traveled a long way too, and sometimes the trip to Bethlehem, for her and for us, is a long one.  Sometimes it's not easy ride to come to the place where Jesus is born anew in our lives.

So, for those on a journey, here are some words of encouragement from Wrestling with Wonder:

Excerpt from Chapter 3:

Too often, I think, when we approach the Christmas story, we are caught up in the star, the angels, the babe in the manger. We forget that it took a nearly-one-hundred-mile journey, while pregnant, to get there. That could not have been an easy trip.
            If Mary and Joseph traveled through Samaria, it would have been eighty miles. But Jews traveling through Samaria weren’t safe and were unlikely to get lodging, so Mary and Joseph may have taken the longer route in the Jordan Valley. They may have traveled with others, or alone. They may have walked or, as tradition asserts, Joseph could have led his donkey while Mary rode. It could have taken four days, if they went through Samaria and Joseph walked fast. It could have taken over a week if they went the long way and went slowly for Mary.
            The Bible doesn’t tell us. It doesn’t say how they traveled or how long it took. It doesn’t tell us if they had to stop every couple hours for Mary to rest. It doesn’t say how Mary felt or what Joseph did or that this was a hard, painful, difficult journey for a pregnant girl.
            It only tells us that they traveled to Bethlehem while Mary was pregnant. In stark, simple language, Luke 2:5 says, “He [Joseph] went there [to Bethlehem] to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child.” That’s it. Mary went. By foot, by donkey, alone with Joseph, or in caravan? We don’t know. But we do know that they didn’t travel by automobile on a paved road. We know it wasn’t a couple-hour jaunt on a pleasant day. It could not have been a simple journey.
            And yet, despite the difficulty, there’s also nothing mentioned about how God intervened to smooth their travels. There’s nothing about being carried on angel’s wings or being magically transported. Only that she went. The rest is up to us to discern, to consider, to ponder how God’s declaration of Mary’s blessedness starts with a difficult journey, perhaps on donkey-back, while very pregnant.
            Highly favored. Blessed. On the back of a donkey on a dusty journey away from home. I hold those two images in tension and realize that I must rethink the meaning of God’s blessing in my life. Clearly, “blessing” does not mean “easy.” It does not mean comfort and luxury and prosperity and ease. It means a difficult journey. It means challenge and pain and discomfort and sometimes danger.
            That’s the beginning of blessedness, of being highly favored by the Most High God.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Finding Hope in Life's Stink

Hi Friends,

I'm still recovering from surgery (wow, this is a LONG, SLOW recovery!), and have been thinking about how we so often encounter God not in the "pretty" places of life, but in those very places we least expect Him to be - in the stink and mess and chaos and just-plain-yuckiness of life.  If we look, that's where we'll find Him.  It's that way in my life, it was that way in Mary's, and here's hope that it will be that way for you too!

An excerpt from Wrestling with Wonder, about finding hope, finding Him, in life's stinky places:

Who is this God whose Son is born in a stable? Who is he who is found by lowly shepherds lying in an animal’s feeding trough, dressed not in robes but in rags? Who is he who comes to the place we don’t expect and looks so little as we imagined?
He is the God of the Barn.
We encounter him in the places we don’t expect him to be. Consider the following biblical encounters:
—Job encountered God in a storm, while sitting on an ash heap (Job 2:8; 38:1).
—Abraham encountered God outside the wicked city of Sodom in the heat of the day (Gen. 18:1).
—Jacob encountered God alone in the darkness, in the middle of the night (Gen. 32:22-24).
—Moses encountered God in the wilderness, on the far side of the desert (Exod. 3:1).
—Elijah encountered God in the cave, while running for his life (1 Kings 19:9).
—Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego encountered God in the fire (Dan. 3:25). 
—And Mary encountered him in a stable . . .…
God’s glory is revealed in unexpected places. It is seen in the storm, from the ash heap, at the edge of a wicked city, in the heat, in the darkness, in the wilderness, in the cave, in the fires of life. There we find him. In the barn. 
The angel’s words to the shepherds echo down through the centuries to us. God whispers, “You will find a him wrapped in cloths and lying in a feeding trough” (Luke 2:12). Because Jesus is born where life stinks. He comes to us not in our palaces but in the stinky, smelly, dirty, unadorned places in life. And there, only there, do we discover something deep and wondrous about the God we follow. We discover that he is the God who takes our life-yuck and transforms it. He takes the places in life where nothing is as we wanted it to be and makes them the very place we encounter the Messiah born in us.
In life’s stink, mess, noise, dirt, and poking straw . . .…
—He is the God of Stink 
—He is the God of Mess
—He is the God of Noise 
—He is the God of Dirt 
—He is the God of Discomfort
—He is the God of the Barn ...
This is real God—born in the stink, in the noise, in the places that are not as they should be. Born to transform them in you, in me.

So, come, the angels are singing. God is calling. You will find me in the stable . . .

Monday, November 24, 2014

Are You Blessed This Thanksgiving?

Hi Friends,

As we think about Thanksgiving this week (at least for those in the US!), I'm thinking about what it really means to be blessed.  Here is something from WRESTLING WITH WONDER to ponder as we consider gratefulness and blessedness, especially when we're not feeling so thankful, not feeling so blessed:


So who is this God who takes what we think we know and redefines it? Who is he who calls the poor rich, the hungry filled, the mighty fallen, the humble lifted high? Who is he who calls us blessed not when life has finally reached perfection but rather when we are struggling along on the journey?
            This is the God of reversals.
            This is the God of upside-down blessings.
            This is the God who says:
                        —Blessed are you who are poor ...
                        —Blessed are you who hunger ...
                        —Blessed are you who weep ...
                        —Blessed are you when people hate you ...
                        —Blessed are you when they exclude and insult you ...
                        —Blessed are you when you’re rejected...
This is the new blessedness ... the reversal of all the world teaches, all our culture says is the way things are supposed to be.
            We think blessing is the arrival at the place where our troubles are gone and we are financially secure, well-fed, happy, liked, included, and spoken well of. Blessing is being accepted on the mountaintop.
            But Mary shows us that through Jesus God has changed everything. He has made the poor, hungry, weeping, hated, excluded, insulted, rejected people blessed. And he’s done it by becoming poor, hungry, weeping, hated, excluded, insulted, and rejected.
            Our world is turned upside down.
            And it is on the journey through the shadows that he calls us to sing.  It is there that he becomes more than the One who provides, but the Bread itself; more than the One who frees, but Freedom itself. More than a way out of darkness, but the Light.
            Because blessedness isn’t a feeling, nor a synonym for happiness. It isn’t having our lives conform to what we’d like them to be. Instead, blessedness is being chosen for a journey through deep valleys and scratchy underbrush. It’s traveling with the One who changes everything, and walks beside us in the dark. It’s singing, knowing the reversals are coming, knowing our world is being turned upside down. It’s supposed to be that way. We’re on a journey to the mountaintop.
            The only question is ...
            Will we sing along the way?

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

When the Journey is Long ...

Hi Friends,

As I look forward to a long surgery next Tuesday, followed by a longer and difficult recovery, I'm reminded that God is a God of the journey and in the journey.  So, for those who are facing their own difficult journey in life right now, here is a bit of hope from WRESTLING WITH WONDER:


If God loves us, if he’s called us, shouldn’t he smooth our path? Shouldn’t he make it easy to follow his will?
            Apparently not, because our God is the God of the journey. He is not the God of the easy way. He has no easy button.
            So why do we think things like “If only I learned faster,” “What did I do to deserve this?” “Why is God punishing me?” or “I must be doing something wrong” when the journey is long and difficult, when we don’t arrive the moment we set out?
            We forget that he knows what he’s doing. He has planned our travels, foreseen our journey. And there is a purpose in it. He travels with us. Within us.

            Consider the journeys of the major players in biblical history:
            —Abraham travels to the promised land.
            —The Israelites travel across the desert, and wander in it, after the exodus from                     Egypt.
            —Ruth travels to Israel and becomes the great-grandmother of King David.
            —Daniel travels to Babylon.
            —Mary travels to Bethlehem.
            —Jesus travels from his throne in heaven to the dark, jostling womb of a woman.

            Because God is the God of the journey and in the journey.
So we walk, we stumble, we run ... and we remember: The journey matters. God is in it. He has planned it from long ago that we might come to the place we need to be.
            The journey isn’t easy, but we are not alone.
            God is whispering in our ear: If there was another way to get you to where you need to be, I would have taken it. This is the only path. This dusty, rocky road is my will for you. Walk in it. Trust me, and travel to your Bethlehem. I am the God of the journey. I am the God in the journey. Walk with me …