Welcome to the blog of author Marlo Schalesky!

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.

Thursday, June 25, 2020

Justice is Not Enough

Hi Friends,

There's been a lot of talk lately about justice, especially with regard to racial discrimination. When I was writing Women on the Bible Speak Out, I was thinking more about gender discrimination than racial, but still the same principal applies: Justice is not enough. It may help, but it's not enough to heal.

For those of you who are pray, I hope you'll consider praying for more than justice, but for healing, wholeness, and holiness.

When asked about this idea that justice is not enough in a recent interview, I said this:

Q: You say that justice is not enough. What do you mean by that? 

A: I feel that in our approach to the gender-based discrimination, hardships, abuse, and pain that women have endured we, as a body of Christ, and as a nation, have focused exclusively on justice, on bringing the sins of the abusers to the light. And while I’m glad the truth is finally being exposed (it’s about time!), it is not enough. Justice is not enough.
            It’s not enough for me. And it’s not enough for the women who have suffered, who are suffering now.
I want more than justice; I want healing.
I want more than healing; I want wholeness.
I want more than wholeness; I want holiness.

I want God to redeem every bit of my #MeToo experiences, and yours. I want him to transform them all.

There’s no use being swept up in anger, bitterness, resentment and so be victimized all over again. Anger doesn't bring about healing. Bitterness only poisons the bearer. And wholeness can never be found in the arms of resentment and accusation. Healing, wholeness, and holiness can only be found in a God who sees, loves, and redeems.

Justice? Good, we need justice. But what I really want, what I really long for is the wonder of God in the darkest places of life. I want to look and see, in the places I least expect it, the glory of God.

Thursday, June 11, 2020

Hagar: A Black Slave Woman Speaks Out

Hi Friends,

In light of the focus on race and racism in America right now, I wanted to share a short excerpt from the chapter on Hagar from Women of the Bible Speak Out. I hope you'll pick up a copy of the book and read the whole chapter. Here are a couple links for online purchase:

Directly from the Publisher
Amazon Link
Barnes & Noble

Hagar was Egyptian, meaning she was black. She was also a slave, given to Sarai, Abraham's wife, as a personal maid. When Sarai became frustrated that she wasn't having a child, she gave Hagar to her husband Abraham to use sexually so that Hagar might get pregnant and Sarai might claim the child for her own. Her story is found in Genesis 16 and 21.

Here's a bit from Women of the Bible Speak Out, chapter 3. I hope it encourages you today:

So often we ignore Hagar’s story, as if she were just a footnote in the story of Abraham and Sarah. As if she didn’t matter much at all. Nobody cared about Hagar. Not Pharaoh. Not Abraham. Not Sarah. And sometimes not even today’s theologians. 
At every turn, Hagar was used and treated as a consumable, a commodity to be used up for the purposes and gain of others, and then to be thrown away. She was used not only by Sarai and Abram in the attempt to secure God’s promise of a child on their own terms, but she was also used by Pharaoh, who most likely gave Hagar to Sarai after the disastrous “she’s my sister” incident in Genesis 12. Her life was defined by a series of events in which her needs, her wants, her desires were not considered at all. She was given away to a foreigner by Pharaoh; she was given to a man sexually so she could bear a son that would not be her own; she was abused by her mistress; and then she was cast aside once that mistress had a son of her own. Foreigner. Sexual slave. Property to be used, abused, and thrown away.
She mattered to no one.
Except God.
God spoke to her personally, rescued her, redeemed her abuse. He treated this Egyptian slave woman with respect, love, and care. With value. And he made her line into a great nation, just as he promised. He did it not because Hagar was humble or faithful or somehow deserving. He did it because he saw her suffering and offered his grace to a woman everyone else had used and thrown out. They left her homeless, husbandless, and helpless, but God lifted her up and transformed not only her desperate circumstances, but also her mistakes when he led her into a future that was more than she could ever have imagined for herself. 
God can do that for you, too. He can take the worst of what you’ve suffered—your most painful humiliations and even life-long dehumanizing moments—and, despite your own bitterness, pride, anger, and resentment, redeem them, and you. That’s what God does. 
When others use us and leave us without a place of safety, without a home, God is with us. When the love and security of family is taken from us—which, in Hagar’s time, was what it was to be husbandless—God sees and intervenes. When we feel helpless to provide for our own needs or the needs of others, God will not leave us bereft. 

Monday, June 1, 2020


Hey Friends,

My newest book is now available - yay! I'm praying it will help many women to find the wonder and love of God despite hurts in their past. I hope you'll pick up a copy, read, and discover the amazing love of God for YOU.

Here's a short Q&A that I hope will encourage you . . .

1) What compelled you to write about women who were abused or treated badly in the Bible?

A: When my publisher asked me to consider writing a book about women in the Bible who experienced abuse, oppression, gender-based bias and discrimination, and more, I didn’t know what I would find in the stories of these women and how they would intersect with my story and the experiences of women today. But as I began to look deeper and to pray, what became clear was that these stories reveal more than abuse and oppression; they reveal the wonder of God in the face of even horrific acts. I thought I would find only horror in these stories, but beyond the horror I found a surprising hope; I found a God who is always, always, seeking to redeem, to heal, and to make right where mankind has broken and betrayed. And I knew I had to write Women of the Bible Speak Out to give the women of the Bible a voice in our lives so that they could show us the God that they encountered, the God who loved them and loves us. In their voices, I think we’ll find our own voice, and God’s.

2) What surprised you most in writing Women of the Bible Speak Out?

A: You know, I’ve heard people say that the Bible shows a God who turns a blind eye to oppression and subjugation, or even that he condones it. But after digging deeply into the stories in Women of the Bible Speak Out, I saw that nothing is further from the truth! Instead of winking at the repression of women, the Bible exposes it and reveals a God who not only shares in but seeks to redeem our suffering. 

That surprised me. I thought I’d find depressing and oppressing stories. Instead, I found a God who loves fiercely, who defends the weak, who is passionate about true justice, and who never white-washes the sin committed against those he loves. Against us. Against the women he created, and sent his Son to die for. 

I am still amazed, changed, by seeing in these stories, God’s fierce love for women. His love for or me. For the women listening … it’s breathtaking. He doesn’t turn his back; he doesn’t shrug his shoulder and say “oh well” – not then, not now. Instead, in God we find a fierce advocate and a gentle healer. We find the lover of our souls.

3)  The #MeToo movement has become controversial. What’s your take on it?

A: To be honest, I wish there was no need for #MeToo. I want #NobodyAtAll. But that’s not the world we live in. This world is far too full of sin, abuse, violence, marginalization, derision, pain, and shame. I wish it weren’t. But the poor treatment of women because they’re women has been going on for millennia, since Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit and were kicked out of the garden. We can’t ignore it. Whether we use a hashtag or whether we simply answer God’s call to love others, we must pursue hope and healing in the face of this particular kind of widespread sin against half the world’s population.

So, as the recent #MeToo movement has given voice to millions of women struggling through experiences of gender-based harassment and/or physical violence, Women of the Bible Speak Out is meant to give voice to women of the Bible. Looking at #MeToo, I had to ask:
            What if the women of Scripture could speak out in a #MeToo movement of their own?  
            What would they reveal about God, and faith, and life? 
What can women today learn from the lives they led?

I truly believe this book is crucial in making the #MeToo movement more than just a cry for justice, but rather a means to hope and healing … through the word of God. 

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.