Welcome to the blog of author Marlo Schalesky!

Sunday, May 22, 2016

A Life that Plays Beautiful Music

Hi Friends,

In honor of "Joelle week" (who just turned 13!), here's something I learned from her when she was little, about playing beautiful music in life. I hope it encourages you as it encouraged me.

Making Music With the Master
Small brows furrowed in concentration.  Small fingers pressed hard on guitar frets.  Small thumbs thrummed the strings. 
            And music filled the room – awkward, off-key, clashing music.  But to my mommy-ears, the sounds were sweet.  I smiled. 
            Bethany and Joelle, my two young daughters, were working so hard to learn how to play real music on their brand new kids’ guitars.  They sat on short stools in front of their dad, with their guitars on their laps and their fingers poised over the strings. 
            Bryan held his own guitar (adult-sized, of course) and strummed the chord again.  A perfect C warbled from his instrument.  He paused.  “See, like that.”  The sound died away.  “Now you try.”  He placed the girls’ fingers on the proper frets one more time. 
            The girls studied Daddy’s fingers.  They glanced at their own, then looked at his again.  Then, they took deep breaths, and strummed.
            Better.  Not good, but at least the sound didn’t leave my hair standing on end.
            Bryan adjusted their fingers again.  First Joelle’s, then Bethany’s.  “Try not to push down the other strings.”
            Bethany nodded and grinned.  “Okay, Daddy.”  She leaned forward. 
            Joelle stuck out her tongue to focus.
            I hurried for the camera. 
            They tried it yet again – studying the way Daddy did it, checking their own fingers, and playing the note.  Studying, checking, playing.  Boldly, joyfully, with Daddy’s help.
            It wasn’t perfect, but each time, the sound improved.  By the end, their fingers were dented by the strings, their picks were well worn, and they had almost learned to produce a decent C chord. 
            But most importantly, they were happy.  Glowing.  Why?  Because they were playing guitar, just like Daddy. 
            As I stood by and clicked pictures, I was reminded of how God, my father, asks me to imitate Him too.  1 Peter 1:15-16 (NIV), says “But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do;  for it is written: ‘Be holy, because I am holy.’”  And in Matthew 11:29 (NIV), we’re told to, “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart . . .”
            I’m called to be like Him, to learn from Him.  Doing that, I’ve come to realize, isn’t a whole lot different from my girls learning to play guitar.  As God makes beautiful music, He asks me to join in – to try.  And though my fingers may be still a little small, and I might bump the wrong strings, still what’s important is that I study the way my Daddy does it and try to do the same myself.  Study, check, play.  Boldly, joyfully, and with my Father in heaven’s help.
            It doesn’t matter if my music isn’t always perfect.  What matters is that I watch, learn, and try again.  That I practice using my instruments like God uses His. The Bible, circumstances in life, popular culture, off-the-cuff comments by acquaintances, friends, or family – how does God make music from these instruments?  How does He work in people’s lives?  And how can I make music with those same instruments?
            The only way to know is to study the Master.  Study the gospels.  How did Jesus use scripture, culture, circumstances, comments, in the gospel accounts?  How does God work in my own life?  In the lives of the people I know?  We must study, watch, learn, and play. 
            God is making music all around us.  If we pay attention, we can make music too.  It may not be perfect.  It may a little off-key, a little awkward.  But if we practice and watch the master musician – if we allow him to move our fingers along the frets, we too can play the notes of heaven, and bring beautiful music into the lives of those around us.

            So, let us play.  Joyfully, boldly, with our gaze fixed on the Master who teaches us the proper chords.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Wrestling With Wonder when Life Goes Awry

Hi Friends,

Some good news -- Wrestling with Wonder (my book that focuses on the journey of Mary, Jesus' Mother) has been selected as a Kindle monthly deal for May (yay!), so if you haven't gotten your ebook version yet, now's the time!! Looks like it's offered for $1.99 all month.  Great read for Mother's Day!

Here's the link: http://amzn.to/26MbGbY 

And below is an excerpt from the chapter when Mary takes baby Jesus to the Temple and Simeon takes the baby in his arms and says to Mary: "Look! this child is destined for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that is opposed. And a sword will pierce through your own soul also. So the thoughts from many hearts may be revealed." (Luke 2)  

This is what it meant for Mary to be a mother, for her follow in the will of God. I hope it encourages you, especially when you feel as if a sword is piercing your soul…

And yet ... Simeon is not finished. His blessing does not end with the sword. Instead, with a single, small word, he gives us new vision and a new hope. “A sword will pierce your own soul,” he 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.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Need Joy? Try this..

Hi Friends,

We've had a couple hot days here this week, so one evening Jayden got on his swimsuit and spent over an hour running through the sprinklers. Of course his diabetes equipment got all wet (and his Dex was wiggy) and later that night his blood sugar went low from all the fun … but it WAS fun. He had a great time.

And the running-through-the-sprinklers laughter and joy reminded me of a story from a couple summers ago, a story I needed to hear again.

I want to be the type of person who runs through the sprinklers of God's grace, a person who laughs (even when my stuff is getting wet and my health goes low) and knows how to soak up God's love and joy. I want to be the kid He made me to be.

Maybe you want that too.

If so, here's the story that's helping me this week:

Running through the Sprinklers of Grace
I sat back in my lawn chair, closed my eyes, and listened to the steady chit-chit-chit of the sprinklers.  Ice melted in the glass beside me.  The sun warmed my face.  Tension oozed from my shoulders, and I sighed.  All was peaceful, calm, and ...
Then came a shriek.
A scream.
A shout.
A giggle.
A laugh.
A squeal of delight.  
I opened my eyes.  There on the lawn before me twirled six little swimsuit-clad bodies, their arms waving, their cheeks sprinkled with water.  
They stopped.  Chit-chit-chit went the sprinkler.  They positioned themselves. Three more chits, then they ran through the falling drops with their chins raised and their voices once more loud with joy. Sunlight glinted off the water in a rainbow of color.  Again they paused, again they ran, again they laughed and danced.
On the first pass, the water made a few dark spots on their suits and hair.  By the fifth run, they were completely soaked.
“Come on, Mom, join us.  It’s fun!”  Joelle raced on tiptoe through the falling drops, until her long hair streamed with water.
I watched her and smiled.  “I’m not wearing my swimsuit.  I’m fine where I am.  You guys play.”  I motioned with my hand and settled deeper into my chair.
The baby raised her hands and toddled through the spray of water.  The older ones followed, each laughing and squealing and shouting with joy.
Wetter and wetter they got.
Happier and happier they became.
Until I realized that I had chosen poorly.  Here I sat, comfortably on my chair, outside of the spray of fun and joy.  I sat.  They ran.  I sighed.  They laughed.
When did I get so dull and boring?  
I stood up and put my hands on my hips.  Was I like this with God, too?  Did I sit on the sidelines, in my comfortable chair, while God was sprinkling his grace and love with abandon just a few feet away?  Was I too comfortable, too tired, or even too lazy to run through the sprinklers of his grace until I was soaked through and through?
If so, I wanted to change.  If God’s grace was raining down, I wanted to be a part of it.  And not just a few dribbles, I wanted to be soaked through and through.  
Joelle’s voice rang out again.  “Come on, Mom, get on your suit!”
I grinned and turned toward the house.  “I’ll be right there.”  Moments later, I was dressed in my physical swimsuit, but what about my spiritual one?  What kind of “suit” would prepare me for running through the sprinklers of God’s grace?
As I thought about the question, Colossians 2:6-7 (NIV) came to mind: “So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.”  I pondered the last part of the verse until I began to glimpse the truth.  God had called me to be overflowing with thankfulness.  That was the “suit” I needed.  When thankfulness covers me, clothes me, I’m ready to receive the droplets of his grace, the pouring out of his love.  A thankful spirit is the suit that’s made especially for running through the water with joy.  
I jogged down the front steps and out onto the lawn.  Then, I raised my face, listened to the steady chit-chit-chit, and ran.  I squealed, I giggled, I laughed.  My kids laughed with me.  And that’s when I knew that I didn’t want to miss the fun anymore, not on the front lawn and not in life with God.  I needed to keep on my suit of thankfulness and see where God was sprinkling his grace -- in church, in books, in serving others, in reading my Bible, in quiet walks, in times with good friends -- so I could put myself in a position for the water to fall on me.  
       If I do that, then I can run with abandon.  I can shriek and scream, laugh and squeal. I can dance through the sprinklers of his grace again and again until I’m soaked with the wonder of his love.  That’s the way I want to live, everyday!

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

The Waiting Place

Hi Friends,

I wanted to share a little except from my book, WAITING FOR WONDER, that's coming out in November (hopefully). So, for anyone who's waiting…

EXCERPT (note: the test I talk about ended up being negative - whew)

Waiting. I’ve never been a fan. But it seems I have a PhD in the art. Waiting for the results of infertility treatments, waiting for an answer for a job, waiting for a change in a relationship, waiting for a change in life.
            And recently, waiting for test results that could mean cancer, or could mean nothing. Once again, I was in the waiting place. I was stuck in Haran. And while there, I wrote this:
            I find myself here again, in this waiting place. The place where I know God is sovereign. I know He holds my life in His hands. I know He is there. I know He cares. I know the very hairs on my head are numbered...as are my days.
            And yet there is a knot in my stomach and my eyes flicker to the phone.        Again. And again. It does not ring. Not yet. Of course not yet.
            But I watch anyway. I swallow. And remind myself of all the things I already know.
            -Who among you by worrying can add a single moment to your life? (Mt 6:27/Lk 12:25)
         -Therefore stop worrying about tomorrow, because tomorrow will worry about itself. (Mt 6:34)
            -Therefore, I say to you, don’t worry about your life... (Lk 12:22)
            -Don’t be anxious about anything... (Phil 4:6)
            And my glance skitters to the phone again.
            Today, I had my yearly mammogram and screening. Today, they found something on my right side. Today could be the first day of a very painful journey.
            But I don’t know yet. I am stuck here, in-between.
            It’s the not knowing that twists like a dagger through my soul. It’s the not being able to move forward. Not being able to move back. Trust is harder in the waiting place.
            So I watch the phone, even though I know the radiologist probably hasn’t even looked at the scans. Even though I know it is too soon. Even though, if she calls, it will only be to bring me in for more tests.
            I hate waiting.
            But it’s not a choice.
            It’s something that’s thrust upon you.
            And still I wait... I drown in the waiting.
            God, you were with me in the past. You will be with me no matter the future.

            Are you here, too, in the waiting place?
And I discovered, YES, God is in the waiting! I hope this excerpt encourages you as it encouraged me today.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Death is Not the End - The Wonder of Easter

Hi Friends,

Today I read an essay written by my daughter, Joelle, about her life. I read about the death of her precious pony Pippin, and her rat Paris, and further back the death of her first pony, Oreo. What I read made me weep. But not simply from sorrow. Carefully, this not-yet-thirteen year old girl wove her story to show how death wasn't the end, but a tool in the hands of a loving God to transform her, to transform us.

Death is not the end.

Easter teaches us that.

And as I pondered her words, I remembered an excerpt from Wrestling with Wonder about the death of Christ. It went like this…


            I tremble as I type the word.
            We’ve all tasted its bitter fruit. Death of a loved one, death of a dream, death of a relationship ... the death of our hopes and the promises of a bright future.
            With Mary, we’ve all knelt in the darkness at the foot of a cross. We’ve all wept and shuddered, knowing death has come near.
            And then it arrives. Death.
            It is finished.
            And yet, God has only just begun to change the world, our world. He has only begun to change us. And we discover that death is not the end we once believed. It is but a doorway to the transformation of our souls.
            Mary could not have seen it from where she knelt on Golgotha. She could not have known as she looked up at her dead son, as she experienced the worst moment of her life, that this very moment would change everything. It was the moment of inexplicable glory.
            When all was lost ... all was saved. You were saved, I was saved, Mary herself was saved from all her sins. This was the moment God broke through and accomplished the most amazing, wondrous, incredible, beautiful thing of all time.
            Her worst moment.
            His death.

            The moment of amazing wonder.