Welcome to the blog of author Marlo Schalesky!

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Grace and Falling Trees

Hi Friends,

What a week around here! We have over 30 giant (over 150' tall) trees down all over the property, with corresponding smashed up fences, our well is covered in downed trees, holes in houses, a couple tent-buildings torn up and upended, etc. No loss of life or injuries to animals or humans though (yay - thank you, God, for that!). Just tons of property damage.

As I was surveying the extensive damage (with the power out), I thought about the last time we had a downed tree (just one that time!) and the lessons God taught me.

Those lessons are needed again now, especially when we've had so much more damage! I thought you might appreciate them as well, so here ya go (all pictures are from our current storm damage ... as I work from the local coffee lounge because we're on day 5 of our power outage, sigh):

The Grace of Falling Trees

            Morning mist gathered on the window of my home office. I sipped my hot lemon water and thought about kidney stones and Type 1 diabetes. I thought about allergies and infections, broken lives, broken families, strained relationships. I pondered lost jobs and clients who refused to pay what they owe, stacks of bills and relatives hovering at death’s door. I thought about all the things that either I or someone I loved was facing at that moment, things that were completely out of my control.
            Lord, where are you ...
            I waited in the silence.
            I drank my water. I watched the droplets of mist just beginning to evaporate. Then I sighed and began to work on my next book.
            A minute passed, then two, then ten.
            The air rumbled. The house jolted, shook, shuddered.
            My water spilled over my desk. I leapt up. The house tumbled to a stop. I caught my breath. An earthquake? But the shaking had not come from the ground below. Instead, it came from all around me.
            I ran through my bedroom toward the front door. I glanced right. No light came through the windows on either side of my bed. Instead a flurry of green and brown blocked the panes.
            I raced outside. Sunlight splashed into my eyes, sunlight that was usually shaded by the giant cypress that grew in our front yard.
            The tree was gone.
            I turned toward it. And that’s when I saw a miracle.
            The tree, over fifty feet tall with a truck three feet in diameter, had fallen precisely in the narrow, less-than-ten-foot opening between our house and garage. I walked over to it and looked down the long length of the trunk. Had it fallen a little to the left, our newly-built garage would have been crushed. If it had gone just a bit to the right, our house would have been smashed, and me with it. But there it lay, exactly between, with just a few branches on each roof.
            Grandpa came out of his house next door and joined me. He looked at the tree. I looked at him. “Thank goodness the kids weren’t out here playing. This is just the time you usually come outside to play with them.”
            He glanced at me. “They asked to come out. I told them to wait ten minutes. I wasn’t ready yet.”
            The tree had fallen in that ten minutes. I swallowed. Hard.
            Then we went to inspect the damage. As we got closer, I could see that the tree had broken the roof of the tiny shed that covered our hot water heater and air conditioning unit. The unit had a small dent in the top, but the hot water heater was untouched. But that wasn’t all. Branches lay on each side of the delicate piping that rose along the house walls and traveled across to the garage. Not a single pipe was broken, even though several branches speared through the shed’s roof like swords through paper.
            Grandpa shook his head. “This tree couldn’t have landed more perfectly to cause the least damage, even if we had guided it ourselves.” Grandpa squatted down under the branches held up by the shed’s roof and examined the hot water heater. “The pilot light isn’t even out.” He glanced up at me.
            I glanced up at the sky.
            I wasn’t squashed. The kids weren’t dead. No one was hurt, not even the house or garage. And there wasn’t water spurting everywhere. A centimeter in any direction, ten minutes later ... There was only one Person I knew who could place a falling tree so perfectly in time and space.
            Thank you, Lord.
            I could almost sense him smile.
            I had been pondering all the hard things in life over which I had no control. I had felt the weight of all those things in my soul. But with one falling tree, God had reminded me that the One who could place a giant cypress so carefully between my house and garage would also handle all the other “falling trees” that concerned me.
            Jesus said, “Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care...So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows. (Matthew 10:29,31 NIV)
            When things seem to be falling apart, when I’m afraid, when I’m in danger, God is guiding everything that’s coming down around me. I may shudder and shake, but God is in control.

            So even when giant trees fall and my whole house shudders, every branch, every leaf, every breath, every life, is guided by the hands of the God who loves me. So even in the scariest moments, I don’t need to be afraid.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Why We Are All Living in Tents

Hi Friends,
As I think this week about what it means to be sojourners and foreigners, I am reminded of the journey of Sarah & Abraham in Genesis and how we often think that a place, that arriving "there" will solve all our problems. It was never meant to be so. 

So for those feeling like life hasn't turned out the way they'd hoped, here's some encouragement from my latest book, Waiting for Wonder:

Sometimes, getting where you want to go is not the answer you hoped it would be. Markus Persson, the founder of Minecraft, recently discovered this truth. A year after he sold his company to Microsoft for $2.5 billion, he tweeted, “The problem with getting everything is you run out of reasons to keep trying, and human interaction becomes impossible due to imbalance.” Two minutes later, at nearly three in the morning, he followed that tweet with another: “Hanging out in ibiza with a bunch of friends and partying with famous people, able to do whatever I want, and I've never felt more isolated.”[1]
            I ponder these thoughts as I imagine Sarai’s arrival in the promised land. I consider what it means to finally arrive in the place God has promised and find it is not everything one dreamed or hoped. “When Jesus calls us, he does not guarantee the future or even tell us what it will be like,” says scholar Kent Hughes when commenting on Genesis 12.[2]
            Even when we get there, we can’t kick back, settle in, and assume the hard journey is over. I should know this. After eleven years of trying to having a baby, I finally held my newborn girl in my arms. She was beautiful, with pink cheeks, a head full of soon-to-be-curly hair, perfect little fingers, toes . . . vocal cords. She yelled at the top of her lungs for three nights straight after she was born. Nothing appeased her. She had opinions, and she let them be known. I didn’t sleep for 72 hours.
Having a new baby was not the cream-colored, angels-singing, everything-is-a-picture-perfect-painting that I had envisioned. Now, as a teen, my daughter is still beautiful, fierce, determined, and a reminder of what it really looks like to live in the promises of God.
            Sometimes it means you have no rest, no pillow on which to lay your head.
            To come to the place God has called us does not mean we’ve arrived at peace, perfection, sweetness, and light. It means we are sojourners, we are foreigners. We arrive, but we are still living in tents.
            And that’s the way it is meant to be.

[1] http://www.businessinsider.com/minecraft-founder-feels-isolated-unhappy-2015-8
[2] R. Kent Hughes, Genesis: Beginning and Blessing (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 2004), 182.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Podcast on Learning to Live on God's Timeline

Hi Friends,

I just finished up a podcast for the Debbie Chavez Show on my new book and what we can learn through our times of waiting. Here's the link: http://bit.ly/2jVHqL0

Please enjoy this conversation about Sarah (Abraham's wife), my kids, and the treasures to be found in the waiting times of life...

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

When You're Stuck in the Waiting Place

Hi Friends,

In good news, Crosswalk.com just published an excerpt from my new book, WAITING FOR WONDER, Learning to Live on God's Timeline. Yay!

So, if you'd like to hear "How to be faithful when you're stuck in the waiting place" here's the link to the Crosswalk post:


Wednesday, January 4, 2017

When It's a New Year and You're Still Waiting...

Hi Friends,

Happy New Year! Starting a new year is supposed to be filled with hope and promise and looking forward to the new things God will do. But what about those things that you've waited and waited and waited for, the things you've been praying for, that still haven't happened and remain beyond your grasp?

What does it look it like to keep waiting in faith when it's a new year and God is still saying, "Not yet. Not quite yet"?

Here's an excerpt from Waiting for Wonder that I hope will encourage you in the still-not-yet places of life:

Who is this God who tells us we still must wait?
            He is the God of just a little longer.
            He is the God of more.
            He is the God who loves us enough to make us wait longer to give us more.
            I ponder this strange dichotomy as I think of my life, and Sarah’s, and the story of Lazarus in John 11. Jesus’ good friends from Bethany, Mary and Martha, sent him word saying, “Lord, the one whom you love is ill” (John 11:3). Jesus received their message in plenty of time. Plus he’d already shown that he could heal from a distance, with just a word. But he didn’t say that word. And he didn’t start for Bethany. Instead, John tells us, “Jesus loved Martha, her sister, and Lazarus. When he heard that Lazarus was ill, he stayed where he was” (John 11:5-6). He stayed for two whole days. He stayed long enough for Lazarus to die without him.
            Jesus loved them, so he waited? He waited so that Lazarus died?
            That doesn’t seem like love. Yet it is.
            We, of course, know the rest of the story. Jesus returned to the sisters when Lazarus was in the grave. The one who was both their friend and the God of all the universe wept with Mary and showed Martha a deeper understanding of resurrection. And he showed them himself in a way they had never seen before. He told them, “I am the resurrection and the life” and revealed what that meant by raising Lazarus from the dead (John 11:25).
            He made them wait. He gave them more.
            They wanted healing. He gave them life.
            He loved them, so he waited.
            He loves us, and so he waits, just a little longer. And in waiting, he gives us more. Because in the wait, God is not cruel but is working. He is preparing us for the promise. He is freeing us, and he is freeing the ones we love. He waits that we may be set free.
            So when God asks us to still wait when it seems the consequences are grave, when he says “Not yet, not quite yet,” remember the power of resurrection, of new life. Remember that he waits because he loves us.
            He is the God of more than we prayed for, more than we hoped, more than we even knew we needed.
            Wait for the God of more.

If the Lord Jehovah makes us wait, let us do so with our whole hearts;
for blessed are all they that wait for Him. He is worth waiting for.
The waiting itself is beneficial to us: it tries faith, exercises patience,
trains submission, and endears the blessing when it comes.
--Charles Spurgeon, The Treasury of David

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Contest Winner Announced!

Hi Friends,

I'm pleased to announce the winners from my recent Waiting for Wonder Live on God's Timing Giveaway and blog tour. Thanks to everyone who entered!

Congratulations to the winner: Donna Wolf. My publicists from Litfuse Publicity Group will be in touch via email with details on how to claim your prize. You can also email your mailing address to info {at} litfusegroup {dot} com. Congrats!

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

A Shepherd's Visit... Embracing Mystery

Hi Friends,

Merry Christmas! As we celebrate the wonder of Christ's birth, I wanted to share with you the fiction portion of the shepherd's visit from my book, Wrestling with Wonder.

May you embrace the mystery of a Savior become a babe, born in a barn ...

Excerpt from Wrestling with Wonder:

I hold him in my arms. He nestles, and nuzzles. So normal. So real. He lets out a cry, his mouth open, searching.
I smile and guide him to eat. He is strong, this newborn son of mine. Of God’s. This Messiah.
I roll the word over in my mind as I gaze down at his pink cheeks, his stock of curly black hair. His eyes are closed, his lashes dark against his skin.
Messiah. Rescuer. Deliverer. Redeemer. King … Baby
I sigh and place him back in the manger. He wiggles. Hay crinkles. I press it down to make it softer around him.
A Messiah in a Manger. What does it mean?
I lean over and kiss his brow. “Will the wild ox consent to serve you? Will it stay by your manger at night?”[1] I whisper the words from the holy scroll of Job, words spoken by God himself.
Does God see his son in a manger? Did he intend to provide no better bed? Will there be no visit from angels bearing gifts? Will there be no witnesses to the miracle of his birth?
Lord, where are the angels?
I hear a noise behind me. A rustling of feet. A whisper of voices.
“We found him.”
“Just as they said.”
I turn and see the silhouettes of men against the night sky. Men in ragged robes with tall staffs in their hands.
These are no angels. They are shepherds.
Simple shepherds from the fields. Are these the witnesses God would send?
Joseph stands, positions himself between the shepherds and the babe. He touches my shoulder.
One man steps closer. “May we enter? May we see the baby?”
Joseph nods. I scoot closer to the manger.
The shepherds shuffle in. The smells of grass and dirt, sweat and sheep swirl in with them. I look into dirty faces, gaze at calloused hands gripping rough wood. I see the stains on their robes, the dirt caked in their sandals.
They are anything but angels.
And they bear no gifts.
Or do they?
Three lean over the feeding trough and laugh. They laugh!
“It’s just as the angel told us,” says the tallest.
“A baby in a manger.”
“A Messiah in a feeding trough.” The oldest sighs, his face alight with the incongruity of a messiah-babe lying in a feeding trough for oxen.
I touch his sleeve. “An angel you say? An angel visited you?”
“We were out in the fields, watching our flocks by night. An angel of the Lord appeared right before us. The glory of the Lord shone all around us. It was amazing.”
“You mean it was terrifying.” The tall shepherd moves closer and continues the story. “But he told us to not be afraid because he was bringing us good news. Us, shepherds living in the fields!”
The third shepherd shifts, never taking his eyes from my son. “He said the Messiah had been born, and the sign to us was to be the craziest thing I’ve ever heard – a baby wrapped in rags and lying in a feeding trough. He said we’d find the Messiah in a manger.” He glances up. “And we did.”
“Other angels came, a whole host of them. They sang of glory and peace. They sang of wonder.”
“And when they left us, we came here, searching for a baby in the last place we’d have thought to find him.”
“So here we are.”
“And here he is.” The last shepherd’s voice drops low with awe.
Here he is …
I sit back on my heels and wrestle with my own incongruities.
Welcomed by shepherds and not kings, not angels …
Angels singing not to him but to the low ones of our society in the open fields at night …
Lying not in a crib but a manger…
And that, somehow, is a sign.
Of what?
What kind of Messiah is this? What kind of Rescuer? What kind of King? 
            I stare at the old wooden feeding trough and grabble with the truth of God sending shepherds to a manger.
We put him there because we had no other place. God put him there because he intended to. Because it is a sign.
            Not an accident. Not an oversight. But a sign.
            A sign I cannot yet understand.
A Messiah meant to lie in a manger. Could it be? The words of the prophet Isaiah tiptoe through my mind: “The ox knows its master, the donkey its owner’s manger, but Israel does not know, my people do not understand.”[2]
I don’t know. I do not understand. But I do know there’s meaning in the manger. God has done this. He has placed his son in a feeding trough on purpose.
Will I ever comprehend it?
The shepherds rise, murmuring about all the people they must tell of this miracle. I watch them go, their robes swaying at their feet, their staffs tapping the ground with eager anticipation. And I know they’ll speak of angels and babies. Of feeding troughs and swaddling rags.
They'll speak of God. 
But what kind of God is this? What kind of Messiah?
Their voices fade. I pick up my son again. I look into his slumbering face. There's so much I don't understand. So much that doesn't make sense at all. Will I ever make sense of a King born in barn? Of a Messiah welcomed by shepherds? Of a Son of God with a manger for his bed?
I press my lips together and look out into the night. What do I do with these strange truths? How do I comprehend them?
I close my eyes and hold him close. I know what I will do. I will wrap these thoughts, these wonderings, carefully in the rags of my pondering and tuck them safely in the manger in my heart. There, I will treasure them.
Because the shepherds brought a gift after all. They brought the gift of Mystery.

[1] Job 39:9
[2] Isaiah 1:3