Welcome to the blog of author Marlo Schalesky!

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Is God Holding You Back?

Hi Friends,

This is RODEO week here in Salinas, and as I am getting ready to enjoy the rodeo festivities, I'm remembering something God taught me a couple years ago when I carried a flag in the Pageant of the Flags for the rodeo opening ceremonies.

This year, I'm not carrying a flag in the rodeo, but I am at a place where I need to remember again the lesson of God holding me back, and what that might mean in the kingdom.  I need to remember the lesson of my beautiful horse, Jewel.  Maybe you do, too . . .


With Flags Flying

The American flag rustled above me as I urged my horse forward.  I tightened my grip on the flagpole, straightened my elbow, and listened to the first strains of the national anthem filling the rodeo grounds.
My horse, Jewel, edged sideways.  The giant flag, secured to the holder in my stirrup, flapped in the breeze.  Ahead of me, a mare stomped her foot, the loudspeaker squeaked, the crowd stood with cowboy hats over their hearts.
The music shifted.  I adjusted my flag.  The lead horse broke into a lope in front of me.  I followed.
Slowly, we loped along the back fence, turned toward the crowd, and made a perfect circle in time with the horse in front of us.  Above me, the stars and stripes of the flag whipped out full and glorious.  Below me, the rhythmic thud of hooves impacted the dark earth.
The music quickened.  So did Jewel.  She strained agains the reins.  I could almost hear her thoughts: Faster, faster, we have to catch up! 
I held her back, tightening the reins, releasing them, checking her up gently but firmly so that she kept the proper pace.  
She snorted.  I persevered.  Because I knew the pattern.  Two slow circles, then turn and stop in a line, facing the crowd as the flags from all the horses flew in unison.  
It would be beautiful to watch, the horses loping in time with each other, the spacing perfect, the flags flying in a pattern as the music soared.
Beautiful to see, but to Jewel, not much fun to do.  She liked to run.  She wanted to sprint down the rail as fast as her legs would go.  She didn’t want slow circles.  And she certainly didn’t want to stop and stand, waiting, going nowhere.  
She didn’t like it.  
We did it anyway.  
Two circles, followed by standing quietly in a line with the flags blowing in the wind as the music ended.  Jewel snorted.  She pulled at the reins.  She flapped her bottom lip.  
And she obeyed. 
The crowd cheered.  Cameras clicked.  And the flag above me was displayed in all its beauty.
As we exited the track, I thought about how I’m a lot like Jewel.  I want to run straight out toward my goal.  I don’t want to be held back, I don’t want to stand still.  I don’t like it when God pulls back the reins.  
But God knows the pattern for my life.  And sometimes he wants me in the slow circle position.  He wants me to lope quietly behind the lead horse.  He wants me to let his banner fly above me in all its beauty.
And like Jewel, I often snort, chomp at my bit, and tug on the reins.  I flap my lips.  I want to run faster.  I want race along to the end.  I don’t want to follow at all.
I certainly don’t want to wait.  
But even when the waiting doesn’t make sense.  Even when I don’t understand why God is tightening the reins, I need to obey.  I need to lope.  And stand.  And try not fidget. 
Because God has a pattern in mind.  And I want to run it well, beautifully, just like Jewel.  I want his flag to unfurl over my life and be displayed in all its wonder.  
Hebrews 12:1-2 (NIV) says, “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”
To run the pattern that God has marked out for me, sometimes I have to slow down.  Sometimes I have to wait.  I have to trust.  And sometimes it will seem that I am going in circles, or not going anywhere at all.
Those are the times that I have to remember that a great cloud of witnesses in heaven are watching, their cowboy hats over their hearts.  If I can trust, if I can wait, if I can follow the pattern that God has chosen for me, his banner of love will fly full of beauty and wonder above me.  

The pattern I run with others will bring joy to the crowds, to the glory of the God who guides me on the ride of a lifetime.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Maybe You're Just Hungry For God?

Hi Friends,

Life has been so crazy here these last weeks (well, about a month and a half, actually), and I find myself feeling like Bilbo Baggins when he talked about butter scraped over too much bread.  And (true confessions here), I'm finding myself more irritable, more exhausted, less patient, and a whole lot less joyful that I'd like to be as someone who loves and follows Christ.

But more than that, I find myself hungry.  Starving.  Ravenous for more of Jesus during this crazy/exhausting time.  I need Him.  I need Him to fill me full!

And so I was recalling this little story from when Jayden was younger, which reminds me how it is when life crowds out the Bread of Life and I'm starving for Him.

HUNGRY FOR GOD
By Marlo Schalesky


Stew bubbled on the stove.  Cookies baked in the oven.  Jello salad hardened in the refrigerator.  The microwave dinged.
I balanced a pot on my hip, grabbed a wooden spoon, and called over my shoulder.  “Hey, can someone check the sauce?”
My husband stuck his head through the kitchen doorway.  “Smells good in here.”
I blew out a breath.  “It’ll taste good too, if I can get it all ready in time.  See if the sauce is hot.”  I nodded toward the microwave then jabbed my spoon in the direction of the dining room.  “Is the table set?”
“Sure is.”  Bryan strode to the microwave and opened the door.  “Sauce looks perfect.  It’s steaming.”
“Great.  Go ahead and take it to the table.”  I glanced at the clock.  In ten minutes, our guests would arrive.  Ten minutes to stir and mix, taste and cook, prepare and place.  Then, all I wanted to do was sit and feast, and enjoy getting to know the new family from church.
I stuck the wooden spoon into the stew and gave it a twist as Bryan lifted the sauce bowl out of the microwave and moved to the next room.  
I turned back to the stew.  Bubbles popped to the surface.  It did smell good.  I leaned over and took a deep breath.  
A sniffle sounded behind me, followed by a tug on my pantleg.
I looked down.
Jayden glared up at me.  His two-year-old lip quivered.
“What’s wrong, honey?”
He pointed toward the living room.  “Sister mean.”
“What happened?”  
He folded his arms across his chest.  “Took toy.”
I sighed.  “Did she take your penguin toy away again?”  
He stared at the floor.  “I no like penguin.”
“But it’s your favorite.”
“No like.”  He sat down and scowled.  Tears rolled down his cheeks.  
“Well, our friends are coming in just a minute.  Maybe you want to go put together a puzzle while we wait.”
“No like puzzle.”
“How about your blocks, then?  Sister won’t take your blocks.”
“No like blocks.”
“Your train set?”
“Hate train.”
I squatted down in front of him.  “Well, you just don’t like anything, do you?”
“Me mad.”
“Yes, I see that.”  I stood back up and took the stew off the stove.  Then, I picked up a ladle and spooned the stew into a large serving terrine.  
“What dat?”
I glanced down.  “Stew.  You want some?”
He sniffed.  “Like stew.”
Ah, that was the problem.  Jayden was hungry.  And like his daddy, he got grumpy when when he was overdue to eat.
I ladled a bit of stew into a small bowl, blew it cool, and set it on the kitchen table.  “Sit on up and eat.”
He did.
Five minutes later, he licked his lips, pushed back his empty bowl, and grinned.  “I play sisters now.  We play penguin.  Puzzles too.”
“Okay, you go play.”
He trotted off.  
As I carried the stew terrine to the dining room table, I wondered if it wasn’t only Jayden and Bryan who got cranky when they were hungry.  Maybe I was that way too.
Jesus said, “I am the bread of life.  He who comes to me will never go hungry...” (John 6:35, NIV)
So when I’m anxious and irritable, when nothing seems right, when I “no like” life, maybe I’m just hungry for more of Jesus.  Perhaps it’s not about sister being mean, or the penguin, or the puzzle.  Maybe it’s just about needing to gobble up more scripture, chew on more truth, do more than just nibble at the corners of my prayer life.  Perhaps I need to fill up on more time with God, tasting the goodness of His presence with me.

These days when my husband seems inconsiderate, when I don’t like my job, when people don’t treat me like I think they should,  before I start casting blame, I try to remember Jayden and make sure I’m all filled up.  Then, I can go out and play with a much better attitude, even if someone is just a little bit mean.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Crossing a Dangerous Road? Take His Hand!

Hi Friends,

A new interview on my infertility journey was posted today. For some encouragement, check it out here:
http://www.amateurnester.com/2014/06/on-the-journey-with-marlo.html

Also, our friend, Doug Huckins, will be having quadruple bypass open heart surgery this coming

Tuesday, so please be praying for him and his family!  His upcoming surgery reminded me once again of the dangers of walking in this world and how we need to be holding the hand of the Father through it all.  So, along those lines, here is a poem to ponder:

TAKE MY HAND

"Take my hand, child,"
The father says, his hand extended,
As they step from the curb
To face the dangers of the untamed street.
"Take my hand," he says,
Because a child must not walk alone.
So the father takes hold of the child's hand,
And the child knows he is loved.

"Take my hand, child,"
The Father says, His hand extended,
As I step from the curb of my safe life
To face the dangers of my untamed world.
"Take my hand," He says,
Because a child of God must not walk alone.
So the Father takes hold of my hand,

And I know I am loved.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Need Refreshment? Waters of Grace are Available!


Hi Friends!

Well, we're three whole days into our summer routine, and the kids are having a great time and I'm … hanging in there and making adjustments to said summer routine! :-)  Here's what we're doing:

--Getting up, getting ready, taking care of critters
--Reading together one chapter of John
--Reading together one chapter of Hinds Feet on High Places (my favorite!)
--Doing a fun God-centered activity
--Practicing instruments
--Doing Projects (my next project for them is getting them to clean up the big ol' mess upstairs!)
--Lunch!
--Outdoor time in the afternoon (including horses, volleyball, biking, running around the lawn, swimming, hiking, whatever)

Today, for our fun God-centered activity, we played charades, of something that reminds of us God.  Some did the wind, or a bird, or a growing plant.  I did water.  I did it because you can't live very long without water.  It brings life and growth and hope.  And when you get it, it doesn't just keep you alive, it's also refreshing, cleansing, cooling, and purifying.

Water changes everything.  God, His presence, changes everything.  Where it was once dry and hopeless, there is life, refreshment and hope.  Where I was once parched and filthy, I can be filled with life and clean.  Ah, I want to drink deeply of the living water that is my Jesus!

My Secret Heart
Deep calls to deep in the roar of your waterfalls; 
all your waves and breakers have swept over me.  
Psalm 42:7 NIV
Deep within my secret heart
Where vision finds its life,
Deeper yet than all my doubts,
Where dreams give birth to hope renewed,
Where the searing edge of fear is quenched,
Beyond the shouts of enemies,
To the place where life emerges free, unhindered,
Bubbling from wellsprings deeper still,
Roaring from waterfalls of Heaven,
Where no one else may ever see,
There, and only there, is truly me,
Kneeling in the throne room of my King,

His waves and breakers cleansing me.




Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Thriving in Hardship - A Lesson from Carnival Fish

Hi Friends,

So the kids went to their school's carnival on Sunday and sure enough, Jayna came home with a bag full of those little carnival goldfish that you win by throwing a ping pong ball in the little fish bowl.  Oh joy.

But that got me thinking about the first time we brought home carnival fish … and I expected them to die.  I learned something then that I needed to remember today.  Maybe you do too.

Back then, it happened like this:

They were supposed to die.  I had planned on it, counted on it, prepared my five-year-old daughter for the inevitable.  From the moment Bethany won those two tiny goldfish at the carnival, I fully expected to be flushing them away a few days later. 
            I lifted the clear plastic bag and stared at the fish.  One bumped against the side. 
Bethany danced around me.  “Yay, yay, yay, one for me and one for Joelle!”  She tugged on my pantleg.  “Do we have a bowl for them?  Do we have food?  What are we going to name them?  Will they get bigger?  Are they girls?  I’m going name one Dorothy.”  She grinned and clapped her hands.
I lowered the bag. The water sloshed inside it causing the fish to dip and spin.  I brushed my hand over Bethany’s hair.  “We have everything we need, Sweetie, but you know fish like this don’t live that long.”
“How come?”
            “I don’t know.  They just don’t.”  I’d gotten fish like this many times before, some as carnival prizes, some with “three free goldfish” coupons from our local pet store.  They never lived past the first week.
Bethany sighed.  “Well, all right.  But can we keep them anyway?”
“Of course.”  I put my arm around her and smiled.
When we got home that evening, I carefully put the fish into a bowl of treated water and crumbed some fish food flakes on top.
Bethany pressed her nose against the outside of the bowl and watched with big eyes.  “Maybe they won’t die right away.”
I patted her arm.  “Bedtime now.  Go get ready.” Then, I glanced back at the fish as Bethany scampered upstairs.  I shook my head.  They’ll probably be belly-up by morning. 
But they weren’t.
The next morning they were swimming around their bowl and glowing with health. 
“Look, Mom, they’re still alive!”
Give them a few days.  I stifled the words and turned away.
A few days came and went.  The fish still lived.  I gave them until the weekend.  They were still alive on Monday.  I cleaned the bowl, treated new water, and waited.
Another week, another bowl cleaning, another and another.  And still the fish lived.
One day I even dropped one of them into the sink as I was cleaning the bowl.  I grabbed it up and threw it back into the water.  It’ll die for sure now.  But it didn’t.  In fact, it’s been almost a year, and those tiny fish aren’t so tiny anymore (Note: those fish lived for YEARS … one even for over 5 years and grew huge!).
Recently, I looked at them and wondered aloud, “Why have these fish lived when all my previous goldfish died so quickly?”  After all, I treated their water too, and fed them the same food, and cleaned the bowl just the same as with these fish.
My husband, Bryan, answered from the other room, “It’s the water out here.  It’s got to be.”
“Water?  What do you mean?”
“All those other fish we had at our old house.  Now we’re on well water.  We had it tested.  Remember?  It’s pure, a lot purer anyway than that city water we used to get.”
The water - what they were surrounded in, what they lived in and breathed every day.  Of course.
The next week, I was reading Philippians when I came to chapter four, verse eight (NIV).  It said, “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable-- if anything is excellent or praiseworthy-- think about such things.”  And as I thought about the idea of purity and excellence, I remembered Bethany’s not-so-little fish.  They were weak, and small, and destined to die quickly.  But they lived because of the purity of the water, even after the hardship of dropping one in the sink. 
People, maybe, aren’t much different.  How well we survive, how well we thrive, may have everything to do with what we let our thoughts soak in, what we live and breathe every day.  Do I let my mind swim around in polluted water? Or do I clean the bowl and put in pure water as often as I can? 

After all, even the weak survive when the water’s pure. 

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Silence!

Hi Friends,

I find myself longing for moments of silence, of quiet solitude, this past week.  My soul is hungry for it … that time with God beyond the rush, the to-do's, the needs of everyone and everything around me.  My soul is hungry.  Starving even.

But the girls need to be picked up from school in 15 minutes.  They need help with their homework.  Jayden needs to be picked up too.  And the horses cared for (Jewel is still sorta gimpy).  Papers need to be filled out, the house picked up (sometimes it feels like I mean that literally!), family fed, graduations attended, mail sorted … and here I am, longing for silence, for God, for a breath amidst it all.

Ruth Haley Barton says, "The process of establishing a way of life that is rich and responsive to the needs of body and soul is led by leaders who are willing to face their own human situation, to …  work form what's real rather than what they wish was real. "  She also says, "It is not up in the heavens or across the ocean.  It is right here - in this body, in this soul, in this set of circumstances.  This is where you will discover the will of God."  And to discover it, we need those moments of silence, of solitude, of being quiet before God.  That is the rhythm I'm longing for today.  Are you longing too?

What if we just did it?  What if we found our silent time however we could find it?  What if we grabbed it like the precious gem, the precious gift that it is.  What if we did not hesitate, delay, press on … what if NOW was the moment?

I dare you.  I dare me …

SILENCE
Silently, so silently,
In the silence of night,
I hear the call to silence
As busyness takes flight.
Listen to the silent voice
That beckons in my soul,
Calling me to quietness

So God can make me whole.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

When Someone Loses a Loved One

Hi Friends,

I got a call late Sunday night from my friend, Pam.  "Marlo, it's Whammy," she said through sobs.  "I lost my husband tonight."

I couldn't believe what I was hearing (in fact, I still can barely believe it), but it was true.  Pam's husband, Rachel and Sam's dad, our friend, died in a quad accident Sunday night.

We're going to miss him -- his big smile, his generous heart, his laugh and the way he was always glad to see you.

He was a good man, a kind man.  Our lives will be less rich now that he's gone.  His family's will be too.  Our hearts ache for his wife, his son, and his daughter (who is good friend of our girls').

So, as I think about Dave, his family, and the upcoming funeral that we'll be officiating at (1:00pm this Friday at SVCC, with reception to follow at the Golf & Country Club across the street), I think about how Jesus understands what this family is going through. I think about Rachel and Sam and how Jesus, too, lost an earthly father in Joseph.  Jesus knew what it was to grieve for a father who had died.  Jesus knows now too.  He knows how to comfort those who are grieving.  He knows what it means, and He is there, so near to the broken-hearted.

I want to know how to offer comfort too.  I want to be near, like Jesus.

And so, here are some tidbits of advice for comforting those who have lost someone they love:

DO:
--   Say simply, “I’m so sorry.”  At this time, you can give the person a hug, squeeze his/her hand reassuringly, or place your hand gently on his/her shoulder.  Small physical demonstrations such as these can be a soothing balm to the person’s emotions.
--   Say, “I’ll be supporting you with my prayers during this tough time.” Then pray!
--   Also pray for God’s help, sensitivity, and guidance in all your interactions with the grieving person.  Remember that the Holy Spirit himself is our Comforter.
--   If you knew the deceased, share something (briefly) that you appreciated about him/her.  A simple “I’ll never forget how Charlie helped me when  . . .” can be a great comfort.
--   Ask if you can help by bringing over a meal, looking after small children for a few hours, or making any necessary phone calls.  If they must leave town for the funeral, ask if they need a ride to the airport, or if you can look after their pets or water their plants while they’re away.

--   Offer a sympathetic ear a few days after the funeral/memorial service is over.  Often people will feel like talking about the service and their memories of the deceased after their initial grief has subsided.  Taking the person out to a one-on-one lunch can provide the perfect opportunity.

DON’T:
--   Don’t ask if the deceased was a Christian.  What will you say if the answer is no?
--   Don’t give advice.  Let people grieve in their own way.
--   Don’t talk about your own grief (i.e. when your Aunt Edith died, or when your cousin was in an accident, or especially when you lost a beloved pet). This will only make the other person feel awkward, as if they have to comfort you, instead of the other way around!
--   Don’t trivialize others’ grief with comments such as “You should be happy that Charlie’s gone on to heaven,” or “At least Claire lived a full life,” or “Maybe it’s better this way.”
--   Don’t put on a happy face.  As Proverbs 25:20 (RSVP) says, “He who sings songs to a heavy heart is like one who takes off a garment on a cold day, and like vinegar on a wound.”

Now, as I seek to offer comfort to those who are grieving, I try to keep these guidelines in mind, remembering the counsel of Proverbs 12:18 (NIV):  “Reckless words pierce like a sword, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.”