Welcome to the blog of author Marlo Schalesky!

Wednesday, October 28, 2020

Don't Score for the Opposing Team

Hi Friends,

In case you missed it, here's the link for the article on me and Wonder Wood Ranch that came out this week. God to https://plannedgiving.com and click on the "cover story" link.

And here are some thoughts from my study of Nehemiah 5 and devoting ourselves to the work of God, especially during these tumultuous times . . .

I have one clear memory from my eighth grade basketball season. We were playing in a tournament in Lake Tahoe, an hour and a half from my hometown. The game was well underway, the score nearly even, with an important win hanging in the balance. The other team controlled a jump-ball when my teammate made a brilliant steal at half court and took off dribbling toward the basket. We all shouted and screamed. She executed a perfect layup and scored two points … for the opposing team. Somehow, that one basket seemed worse than all the others scored by our rivals. 

 

In Nehemiah, the Israelites were engaged in more than a simple basketball game; they were in a fight for their lives, for the restoration of the very identity of their people and homeland. They were in a battle for the city of God.

 

In previous chapters, Nehemiah outlined the opposition coming from outsiders such as Sanballat, Tobiah, the Arabs, the Ammonites and the people of Ashdod. In chapter 5, he turns the lens inward to expose the opposition coming from within their own ranks. The nobles and officials were scoring for the opposing team! 

 

The very people who were supposed to be the team’s strongest players were instead undermining their teammates by charging interest on loans, a practice clearly forbidden by God in the Pentateuch (see Exodus 22, Leviticus 25, and Deuteronomy 23). 

 

Interest, or usury, could be charged to foreigners, but not to “a fellow Israelite.” Jews were always supposed to be one people, working together to honor God and be holy, to be set apart for God’s purposes. They were to be His team. God intended, and still intends, for his people to build each other up, to support each other, to make the team stronger as a whole as they work for the win, together. They were not to make their own position stronger by making their fellow Jews weaker. 

 

The Israelites of Nehemiah’s day couldn’t win that way. And we can’t either.  We too have a bigger goal, a bigger vision, than simply making ourselves richer, than securing our personal position in life.  Nehemiah was leading the team effort to rebuild the wall of Jerusalem. Today, Jesus leads his church in the team effort of building the kingdom of God.  Nehemiah could not afford points scored for the opposing team. And neither can we.  We cannot use the plight of others, their struggles, their weaknesses, to our own advantage. 

 

We must be like Nehemiah, we must instead devote ourselves to the work (see v. 16), not taking advantage of even that which is due us.  God placed Nehemiah in leadership over the rebuilding of the wall because Nehemiah knew what it meant to strengthen the team instead of just himself. Perhaps God has placed me, and you, in our positions so that we too may build up our team and accomplish greater goals for the Kingdom of God. In everything we do, we need to make sure we are running toward the right basket.

Sunday, October 11, 2020

TCT Today Link and Banjo Tribute

Hi Friends,

A couple things today ...

If you missed my TV interview on TCT Today, you can find the archived program here:

https://watch.tct.tv/tct-today/videos/ttod7891

I hope you'll watch it and be encouraged to love Jesus more deeply, see Him more clearly, and find a more vibrant joy in the One who loves you passionately!

I also wanted to share a little story of how our cat, Banjo, (who passed away at 20 years old last week) came to us and helped us to be faithful in prayer . . . 

 


Tapping on the Window to Heaven 

 

Rat tat tat.  A muffled tapping reverberated from the windowpane beside my office desk.  I stood, and the sound stopped.  Slowly, I reached for the shade.  Before I could reach it - Thump, thump, thump. 

“Who’s there?”  My whispered hiss dissolved in the night.

            Silence answered, followed again by the insistent rapping. 

            I took a deep breath, lifted the corner of the shade, and peeked outside.  Round, green eyes peered back at me.  I dropped the shade.  

“Bryan, you aren’t going to believe this.”  

Bryan sauntered in from the other room.  

This time, I pulled up the shade all the way to reveal a gray, furry face lit by the glow of my office lamp.  “Meow.”  The cat blinked, then batted his paw against the glass again.  

Bryan stepped closer.  “Whose cat is that?”

I shrugged my shoulders.  “I’ve never seen him before.”

We contemplated the cat.  

The cat contemplated us.

I glanced at Bryan. “I think he’s hungry.”  

He crossed his arms.  “You know we can’t --”

“I know.”  I sighed.  We had plenty of stray cats crossing our property, so we knew that unless we wanted a cat farm, we’d better not put out any food.  But then, none of those cats had ever come knocking at the window. 

“Meow.”  The cat rubbed his cheek against the window then squished his nose against the pane. 

I walked toward the door and opened it.  

A moment later, Bryan appeared behind me.  “Here.”  He held up an opened can of tuna.  

I grinned, took the can, and set it down on the porch.  

The next morning, we opened the door to find the cat curled in a ball on the doormat.  

Bryan shook his head.  “Well, it looks like we have a pet cat.”  

“You don’t like cats.”

“I know.”

We stood for a moment in silence.

“Let’s name him Banjo.”

I smiled.  “Okay.”

Bryan opened the door, and the cat trotted in like he’d been doing it for years.

In Matthew 7:7 (NIV), Jesus says, “Ask and it will be given to you, seek and you will find, knock and the door will be opened to you.”  I’ve always been caught up in the idea that sometimes I’ve asked God and I’ve not received what I’ve asked for.  But Banjo has given me new insight into the verse.  

Unlike the other cats on our property, Banjo took a risk because he was hungry, for food and for love.  He decided to try, to persist, to not give up.  He knocked on the window until someone came, until I went out and met his need.  

To us, Banjo was just a stray cat.  To God, I’m a beloved child.  So, if I respond to Banjo’s bold persistence, how much more will God respond to me, whom he loves.  

And just like Banjo, I may not get exactly want I’m wanting – after all, if Banjo had his way, he’d curl up on our bed and make it his own.  But, while we sometimes let him in, we’ve decided he’s better as an outdoor cat.  He still bats at the window whenever he wants food, or attention.  And we still feed him, play with him, and call him our own.  We’ve gotten him a collar with his name, a little house to sleep in outside, a food bowl and a water dish.  He’s our cat now, and we make sure that even though he may not get everything he wants, he has everything he needs.  

These days, when I feel like giving up in prayer, when I’m tempted to think that God doesn’t care, I remember Banjo’s furry face pressed against the windowpane. And I remind myself that God will feed me, will give me what I need in him, and more importantly, welcomes me into his loving family.  So, when I’m cold, hungry, and it’s dark outside, I’m going to keep knocking on the window to heaven and meowing my heart to God.

Wednesday, September 30, 2020

Politics Getting Your Down? Here's Hope!

Hi Friends,

After watching most of the US Presidential debate on Tuesday, I found myself discouraged, troubled in spirit, and feeling just, well, yucky. What a mess! Is there any hope?! Is there any chance for truth, for decency, for ... love? 

I didn't think so, or at least I didn't feel so. But then I remembered this little story about fog and faith that happened years ago. The dense and ugly fog of politics may have obscured the view of truth, decency, love ... but that doesn't mean those things aren't there. They ARE there. They are there in Jesus, just as strong as ever. And they are there in you and in me as we choose to follow the way of truth and real, action-love, God's love. 

Clearly (pun intended!), government and politicians doing politics, are not the answer. They won't save us. You and I, continuing to believe, to stick determinedly to love and truth, to follow God's call to love him and others with abandon, with everything in us ... we are the ones who will bring hope and beauty, love and light, into this depressing, debilitating fog. 

Together, believing in the wonder of God, living out the invitation of his love, we can do what government and politics cannot. Together, no name-calling, no hate, no considering those "other side" as enemies that must be defeated at all costs, we can be the light that burns away the fog so that the hurting can see and be lifted by the true Light who loves them enough to sacrifice himself. 

So, don't believe the lies of the fog! Love is still there. Beauty is still there. Decency and truth still exist. And YOU are loved enough that God Himself is calling you to rise above and glow with the light of His love.

Here is the story that inspired these thoughts in my today, and gave me a renewed hope . . .

OF FOG AND FAITH

 


On some days, I can almost glimpse eternity.  It stretches outside my new office window, reaching down the green valley lined with oaks, touching the distant, snow-frosted mountains.  On those days, I gaze out over the tall Monterey pines and search out that special place where sky meets earth in a blaze of blue glory.  And I know that God is real, that He created all this beauty, and that He shares it with me because He loves me.  On those days, I have no doubts, no questions, no fear.

This day, however, was not one of those days.  I could see no mountains, no valley.  Even the tops of pines were blotted from my view.  Instead, fog laced through the bottom branches and swirled in thick ripples across the ground.  Grayness pressed against my window and formed tiny water droplets on the glass.  It covered the mountains, masked the oaks, camouflaged the pines.  I sat at my desk and peered out into the day, and saw nothing but waves of thick fog.

I sighed and dialed in to check my email.

“So, how do you like your new office?”  My husband’s voice sounded from the doorway behind me.

I turned and smiled at him.  “I love it.  And the view out this window is incredible.  You ought to see it.”

Bryan strode through the door and leaned against the windowsill.  His eyes narrowed.  “You’re kidding, right?”

“No, really.  Oaks and pines, and snow-tipped mountains kissing the sky.”

Bryan’s eyebrows rose to his hairline.  “Very poetic, but it looks like a bunch of fog to me.”  His voice lowered to a mutter.  “Snow-kissed mountains.  Yeah, right.”

I sat back in my chair and crossed my arms over my chest.  “You’ll just have to take my word for it.  On a clear day . . . wow, you can see forever.”

Bryan shrugged his shoulders.  “If you say so.”  He dropped a handful of mail onto my desk, then turned and left.

In the moments that followed, I shuffled through the mail then allowed my gaze to again travel out the window.  The fog wouldn’t lift today.  And maybe not tomorrow.  It could be days, I knew, before I caught sight of the mountains or valley again.  But the vision of snow-topped mountains and the deep green of the valley oaks remained fixed in my mind.  I knew the mountains were out there, even though I couldn’t see them.  I trusted that the trees remained as green and beautiful, even when they were lost to my sight.

As I sat and listened to the silence tangle with the fog outside, I was reminded of the Bible’s definition of faith.  Hebrews 11:1 (NIV) says, “Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.”

I used to live as if faith was seeing the mountains.  I believed that if I only had enough faith, I would see God clearly, I would always know what He wants, I wouldn’t have any doubts, any questions.  There would never be any fog.

But these days, I see faith differently.  Faith, I’ve come to believe, doesn’t dispel the fog, but is found within it.  Faith isn’t about seeing the mountains.  It’s about believing they are there when all my senses deny it.  It’s about believing in that spot of blue glory when all I see is the persistent grayness.  

There are times when I wonder if God really loves me, when hurt and confusion press against the window of my soul, when doubts creep in and twine around my thoughts as surely as the fog twists through the trees.  That’s when faith flourishes.  As surely as I can say I know the mountains and oaks and pines are there, even though I can’t see them, so I can say, I know God loves me even though I can’t see it now.  I know that I am His and that He died for me.  I choose to believe what I cannot see.  For faith is not seeing, but believing, even in the fog.  Especially in the fog.

Wednesday, September 16, 2020

Even Roosters Can Work Together! Can We??

 Hi Friends,


Today I wanted to share a story that I hope will encourage us to stop looking at others as our enemies and instead work toward unity to protect others and care for the weak. See what you think!

Dogs in the Chicken Coop

 


 “Mom!” 

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!” 

Probably.

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 19, 2020

Have You Been Betrayed?

Hi Friends,

Lately I've found myself walking with a number of people who have been betrayed by someone very close to them. It's heartbreaking, shattering, and can shake one's sense of self and God's love. So, for those who have been betrayed, I offer this encouragement from the pages of Women of the Bible Speak Out . . .

From Sarah's story in Genesis . . .

Our God deems us precious. Valuable. Righteous. Justified. Free. Loved.

All of that is true. And yet, if it’s true, why doesn’t this God who loves us always save us before anything bad happens? ...

I don’t have all the answers. But I do know that God also didn’t spare his only Son.

Jesus trusted his Father in heaven. He loved, he gave, he never sinned . . . and yet he was betrayed. By a kiss, no less! By a sign of love. On the night he was arrested, Judas, one of Jesus’s closest friends, one of the twelve special disciples, a man who walked with Jesus, lived with him, and claimed devotion to him, walked up to Jesus in front of a mob of soldiers with torches and swords, and kissed him. The kiss was to show the mob what man to arrest. And following that kiss, Jesus was arrested, beaten, mocked, and crucified. A kiss is a sign of affection, but behind this kiss was the worst kind of betrayal.

Our God, in Christ, has lived the pain of betrayal. For him, it led to a horrific death on a Roman cross. It led to the most excruciating and cruel execution known to the world at that time. He was beaten, mocked, and crucified because he was betrayed by someone who claimed to love him, someone who betrayed him with a kiss.

Many of us have been there too. There were promises of love, kisses, but love wasn’t love. It wasn’t the real thing. And Jesus shows us how to respond to that kind of betrayal. As he hung on the cross, his last words were, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!” (Luke 23:46). For him, it was a cry of surrendering to death; for us, it can be a daring, courageous cry of surrendering to real love, true love, the love that never abandons, never betrays. The love that knows your name, makes no excuses, gives you the voice of kings, and redeems you. The love that makes you an equal recipient of the promises of God. The love that sets you free from all guilt, all shame, and calls you his own. His princess.

Commit your spirit to him. You can withstand this pain because Jesus has walked this path of betrayal before you, and he walks beside you now. You can flourish. It’s not easy. It’s never easy. But Jesus himself has shown the way and holds your hand as you travel the path of healing your soul. Because he suffered and died and rose from the grave, you can be fully healed.

In the face of betrayal, stand in the love of Christ. Place your hand, place your life, in his. Hear the words of God spoken over you through Abimelech, the king: You are innocent . . . and before everyone you are vindicated. You are seen. You are loved. You are valued.

And no one can take that away. 

Tuesday, August 4, 2020

Biblical? Or Just Traditional?

Hi Friends,

I was revisiting this little portion of Women of the Bible Speak Out today and thinking about some of the memes I've seen on Facebook, in particular. There's an umbrella meme that insists that a woman's place is under the umbrella of the husband, who is under the umbrella of God. It claims that the picture is the biblical model for a family. But is it? I really can't find any support for the meme's claims in the Bible. In our past culture, yes; but in the Bible itself? Not so much.

Sometimes what we believe is biblical is really only tradition. It's the "way things have been done." It's what has been considered respectable and right but isn't necessarily what the Bible actually teaches. Sometimes, in fact, it's the opposite!

So, next time you're thinking about what's biblical for people today, I urge you to think deeper. Consider not just a verse or two out of the Bible that you believe applies, but consider the Bible as whole. Consider the character of God. Think about the testimony of the God's Word about the One who is Love itself.  

And consider this short excerpt from Women of the Bible Speak Out, from the chapter about Mary and her sister Martha . . .

Jesus never calls us to meet the expectations of others. In fact, he often challenged the legalisms held by the religious leaders of his day. They had their traditions, their expectations, their interpretations of what they believed was God’s law and God’s way. But Jesus never condoned their narrow interpretations and beliefs. In fact, he routinely challenged them, such as on this occasion when his disciples failed to meet the requirements of ceremonial law:

Now when the Pharisees gathered to him, with some of the scribes who had come from Jerusalem, they saw that some of his disciples ate with hands that were defiled, that is, unwashed. (For the Pharisees and all the Jews do not eat unless they wash their hands properly, holding to the tradition of the elders. . . . And there are many other traditions that they observe. . . .) And the Pharisees and the scribes asked him, “Why do your disciples not walk according to the tradition of the elders, but eat with defiled hands?” And he said to them, “Well did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written,

“‘This people honors me with their lips,

but their heart is far from me;

in vain do they worship me,

teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’

“You leave the commandment of God and hold to the tradition of men.”

And he said to them, “You have a fine way of rejecting the commandment of God in order to establish your tradition!” (Mark 7:1–9)

Tradition. Often what others insist is biblical, or God’s way, is really only human tradition, cultural tradition, or “the ways things have always been.” When Jesus came, he shattered many of these traditions—not only ceremonial traditions, such as the washing of hands, but also social traditions about the roles and expectations placed on women.

A woman sitting and learning at a rabbi’s feet? Scandalous!

Women disciples, such as Mary Magdalene, Mary and Martha, and others? Radical!

Women as the first witnesses to the resurrection? Unheard of!

When he walked the earth, Jesus was not a traditional rabbi. He was not even a what-was-expected Messiah. Instead, he chose to be exactly who God the Father wanted him to be.

You can be the woman God wants you to be. You can be Mary, choosing to sit at the feet of Jesus. You can be Martha, who accepted Jesus’s invitation to set aside the expectations of others.

Jesus himself longs to say of you, “She has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.”

Wednesday, July 8, 2020

Who Do You Listen To?

Hi friends,


In response to all the shame and blame that's being thrown around these days, I wanted to share a short excerpt from my latest book, Women of the Bible Speak Out. The excerpt comes from chapter 12 which discusses the story of the "sinful woman" who anointed Jesus' feet in Luke 7. See what you think, and I hope you'll be encouraged . . .

Who Do You Listen To?
There’s an interesting dynamic of shame and blame, of scorn, that sometimes happens in my household of six kids. Today, it played out in an exchange between my thirteen-year-old daughter Bria and my ten-year-old son Jayden. It went something like this:
Bria: Jayden didn’t put his plate in the dishwasher.
Jayden: Bria! I did too.
Me: Bria, that’s Jayna’s plate. Jayden cleaned up after himself.
Jayden to Bria (with increasing volume): I did too, Bria! Stop trying to make me look bad.
Me: Jayden did what he was told.
Bria to Jayden: You never put your dishes away.
Me: He did this time.
Jayden (still totally ignoring me): I do too. I put my plate away. Stop being mean, Bria!
Me: (Heaves a big sigh.)
You would think that Jayden would be satisfied that I was backing him up, especially since I was the authority in that situation. You’d think he’d rest in my praise and affirmation of his innocence. But no. All it takes is one sibling saying something critical or negative about another, and that becomes the only thing the criticized one can hear.
Thank goodness the woman with the alabaster jar wasn’t like that! She knew who to listen to: Jesus. She focused exclusively on him. In fact, she did not cease kissing Jesus’s feet even when others were talking about her. She heard only Jesus, paid attention only to him.
I want to be like that—so focused on gratitude and love that I have no room to dwell on the scorn of the Pharisees in my life. I never want to allow the critics to distract me from showing love to God or from following his will for me.
The key, I believe, is firmly deciding whose opinion matters. Do we care about the scornful comments of those who are mean-spirited and judgmental? Do we let them pull us away from Jesus’s feet? What if they’re religious leaders? So was Simon! His opinion was supposed to matter . . . or was it?
In comparison to the opinion of Jesus, Simon’s opinion meant nothing at all. And that’s how it should be. If those around us, even leaders in the church, degrade and deride us, then they are not showing the character of Jesus. Jesus says we are forgiven. Jesus says we are made new. He is the one who offers freedom and peace. He is the one who calls us to come near.