Welcome to the blog of author Marlo Schalesky!

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

The Story that Changed Everything

Hi Friends,

Last Saturday we had a fun time telling Jesus' story through drama at our Celebrate! Kids Easter Event at church.  This Saturday, I'm leading a team that's going to some apartment complexes in town and we'll put on an Easter party for the kids there and I get to tell the Easter story again (yay!).  

So, this Holy Week, I'm pondering the Story That Changed Everything and rejoicing in the amazing, wonderful, incredible, breath-taking, inspiring, Wonder-Filled thing that Jesus did for you and me.

Here is that story, as I'll tell it to the kids on Saturday.  Soak in it again … and be filled with His Wonder!


The story begins in a beautiful garden called Eden where God created the first people, Adam and Eve, to be in relationship with Him and to walk with Him in the garden every day and care for His creation.  But Adam and Eve chose to disobey God, and their sin destroyed their relationship with God and corrupted all of creation. They had to leave the garden and live with the disease of sin within them  and we all have that same disease in us.  Oh no!  
Thousands of years went by. And then … something happened! In a small town called Bethlehem,  God became a tiny little baby -- Jesus was born!! We celebrate that at Christmas. Then Jesus grew up. He cared for the poor, healed the sick, raised the dead, and welcomed children and blessed them.  Jesus never, ever did a single thing wrong.  He showed us just what God is like.  And some people hated him because of it.  They plotted to kill him.  
So they arrested Jesus one night in a garden called Gethsemane.  Soldiers came with their torches and their swords, and they took him!  They took him to a place called Gabbatha, which means the Stone Pavement, the place of judgment.  They beat him with whips and he stood there on the stone pavement with the governor, Pilate, and all the people yelled, “Crucify Him!  Crucify Him!”  
And that’s just what Pilate decided to do!  They made him carry his own cross to the place called Golgotha, the Place of the Skull.  And they put a crown of thorns on his head.  And they laid the cross on the ground, and they laid Jesus on the cross.  Then they drove the nails through his hands and feet.  They lifted the cross up until it hung between the heavens and the earth.  And they set it.  THUMP!  The sky turned black, like pitch, in the middle of day! And Jesus died on the cross that day.  And all the people who loved him cried and thought all their hope was gone.  
Why did Jesus do it?  Why did he die that way on the cross when he could have called all the angels of heaven to rescue Him?  I’ll tell you why!  He did it for YOU!  He took all the wrongs things you ever did and paid for them himself.  Jesus died on the cross so we can walk with God again and know HIm and be in relationship with him.  He paid for what we’ve done wrong!  Isn’t that great news!!  
But that’s not the end of the story.  Who wants to know what happens next?  Well, let me tell you.  After Jesus died, one day passed.  Two days passed.  And very early on the morning of the third day, the ground shook.  And the stone they had put in front of the entrance to Jesus’ tomb rolled away!  Some women had come to put spices on Jesus’ body, and when they looked into the tomb, what should they see??
Not Jesus!  They saw angels!  And those angels said to them, “Why do you look for the living among the dead?  He is not here.  He has risen!”  Jesus was alive again!  And that is the most wonderful, fantastic, incredible, amazing, beautiful, happy thing that has ever happened from the beginning of time until now!  

Jesus rose from the dead.  He defeated death for you and me!  And because of that, he’s able to give us clean, white lives to replace our black ones.  Who would like a clean life from Jesus?  Our new lives are not just tickets into heaven, but tickets that allow us to have a relationship with God, for us to pray and talk to Him, and follow Him all the days of our lives.  We don’t have to be all black and yucky inside anymore.  We can be clean and white and with God every day!  He loves us that much!
And that's what Easter is all about … Wow!

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Wrestling with Wonder Cover!!

Hi Friends,

Just wanted to share the cover to my new book and a bit about it.  Here it is, to be released this coming September.  Whoo Hoo!

And here's the catalog copy:

You’ve never seen Mary, or her God, like this!  

Who is this God?  Who is he who calls us to surrender and then leads us on a journey of twists and turns, ups and downs, unlike anything we could have ever expected?  Who is this God who calls a young girl to birth a Savior and then watch him die on a Roman cross?  Who is he who fulfills every promise and yet shatters every expectation? 
Come, join Mary, Jesus’ mother, on a journey of discovery. Hear the angel’s call, walk the long road to Bethlehem, give birth in a barn, search for a lost son, kneel at the foot of a cross, and experience the wind of the Spirit.  Come, walk with Mary, and find your own journey in hers. 

Because life rarely turns out the way we planned...
Because we lose the wonder in the disappointments of life ... 
Because being highly favored does not mean being highly pampered ...

Because Mary shows us God -- Passionate, breath-taking, and unpredictable...

Monday, March 31, 2014

Why I’m so GLAD I saw Noah, the Movie

Hi Friends,

So, I went to see Noah this week, mostly because I’m a big fan of Russel Crowe’s acting and I’ve been waiting for this one for months.  Yes, I read many negative reviews from Christians, have a lot of friends who hated it, and saw all kinds of declarations on Facebook from friends who refused to see it.

I went to see it anyway, and I’m so, so glad I did.  Why?  Because I saw Jesus.  Or more precisely, I saw the wonder and beauty of what God did for us at the Cross, and how when there was no other way but death, God provided something, Someone, beyond anything we could have imagined to save us.  He gave us Himself, to die in our place.  And that was a truth that I saw so clearly, so beautifully, through the Noah movie.  Let me explain . . .

First of all, you should know that this is not a review of the movie.  I did not go to see Noah as an “evaluator” of how close I thought it stayed to the biblical text.  I didn’t go in as a critic, a reviewer, or a judge of whether or not this movie depicted events as they were most likely to occur from the text.  Instead, I went in a God-hunter ... to enjoy, and find what truth God may reveal through a biblical movie made by a person who is seeing the story from the “outside” -- someone for whom this story is not “old news” read a hundred times.  There’s nothing I like better than to find the wonder of God in unexpected places.

And that’s just what happened as I experienced Noah.

Spoilers ahead ...

So, let’s just cut to the chase.  What took my breath away in this movie?  Here it is:

There is a point in the movie when Noah gets a glimpse, just a glimpse, but a true behind-the-curtain glimpse at the sin in us all.  Not just the bad things those bad people out there do, but a glimpse at the sin nature that is within him, within us all.  And that glimpse changes him profoundly throughout the rest of the movie.

For a moment, he clearly sees what Christians have claimed as a foundational truth:  For ALL have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.

Not just that we have all done some not-so-good things, but that we have ALL been fundamentally corrupted by sin and evil is within us all.  

And he comes out of that experience knowing beyond a doubt that death is the only solution.  Death not just for the bad guys, but for ALL of humanity.  There is no “innocence,” there is no “righteous/good enough.”

Some have complained that our biblical hero, Noah, has been turned into a homicidal maniac by unbelieving filmmakers.  But the truth in the movie is that Noah is indeed turned into a homicidal maniac ... but by a glimpse into the true nature of sinful man.  Isn’t this what God himself tells us when he says, “The wages of sin is DEATH.”

So, I was left breathless, thinking, wondering, what would it be like for me, what would I be like, if I truly saw, even if just for moment, the reality of corruption and sin within me?  What if the veil was pulled back and I encountered the raw truth of sin?  Perhaps I too would believe, not just as a doctrine to which I give mental assent, but truly believe in my soul of souls, that death is indeed the only answer.  The wages of sin really is death.  There is no other answer.  There is no “not so bad,” no “righteous compared to others,” no “good enough.”  There is no one righteous, the Bible tells us, no not one!  And that is a powerful truth revealed in the Noah movie.  Revealed so that Noah is changed ... and so was I.

So Noah struggles throughout the rest of the movie with this choking, incredible truth:  Sin is within every human, and there can be no Eden, no paradise, while man, any man, survives to propagate.  The sin in man will corrupt the whole world.  What answer is there for this oh-so-biblical truth?  What answer but death for every single human being, even the babies?

Is that not the foundation of our faith?  Is that not the first point of the gospel itself?  We cannot save ourselves.  No one is good enough.  We are all hopelessly, helplessly corrupted by sin within our very being.

And yet (spoiler alert!), Noah cannot kill the babies.  He cannot end humanity.  AND GOD CANNOT EITHER.  Love intervenes.  Mercy wins.  And we know, we know as people who live in a broken and fallen world, that Noah was right.  Our sin, embedded in our very nature since the fall of Adam and Eve, will ruin the world, hurt each other, destroy any hope of Eden.  We cannot, will not, have Eden while sin persists within us.  

And so Noah ends, with the reality of the sin within not wiped out by a global flood, with the knowledge that a new beginning is not really a new beginning at all.  Sin remains.  

And the rainbow comes, promising that God will not choose the one option to eradicate the horror of the sin-disease: the end of humanity.  

And that leaves us, or at least it left me, pondering the real question left open at the movie’s close:  So will He, can He ... will He provide another way ... a way Noah could not imagine, a way beyond anything we could dream, a Way to do what seems impossible, to redeem a sinful, integrally-corrupted, humanity?

And of course, for those of us who live on this side of the Cross, we know that He did!  Jesus took upon Himself our death, our sin, our corruption.  When death was the only answer, he took that Death on Himself and redeemed us.  He provided another way!  God Himself had to become man to save us from something so vile, so evil, so integral to our very being ... the sin within us all.  God did that for us, because there was no other way but the death of us all.  

In the movie, Noah knew it.  And by watching him, I came to know it too - know it in the very core of my being.  I deserved death.  I should have died.  But Love Himself, Mercy Himself, came down and became a man Himself, to die for me.  To save me.  

While we were yet sinners ... while we were horrible, corrupt, evil -- all of us!! ... Christ died for us.  For you, for me.  He found another way.

And that is a Love so amazing, so divine, that it takes my breath away.  

That is the God I encountered in Noah ... not, perhaps, the God that the movie intended to show me, but in showing me just a glimpse of the reality of the sin within and how hopeless and helpless we are in the face of that sin within us all, I could not help but be overwhelmed with ...

and incredible

for what Christ has done for me.

So, if you go see Noah, I urge you to not go as an evaluator of what’s biblical and what seems far-fetched, but go as a God-hunter, a Truth-hunter.  Go with an eye to what our options really would be if it weren’t for Christ.  Go to see what God may whisper to you!  See if you can discover the wonder of Christ.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

When God Takes You Where You Don't Want to Go

Hi Friends,

I just finished the page proofs for my newest book, WRESTLING WITH WONDER, releasing with Zondervan Publishers this coming September.  (YAY!)  As I was reading and proofing, I came across this little section that I've been pondering today.  I thought I'd share it for any of you who may be in a place in life where you didn't want to be, or who have faced things you didn't want to face, or are struggling with God saying "no" and instead allowing challenges that may seem like a nightmare-come true.

Right before this section, I talk about the prayers of Jonah (Jonah 4:2), Paul (2 Corinthians 12:7-9), and Jesus (Matthew 26:36-46).  Here's my thoughts . . .

The reason these men’s prayers weren’t answered in the way they’d hoped was not because God abandoned them, or because God didn’t love them, or because they’d used a wrong prayer formula. It wasn’t because they didn’t have enough faith, or had made God mad, or weren’t worthy.
            Instead, it was because God was accomplishing his will not only for them, but for others around them. God was up to something that required more faith, more trust, more submission to his will. God had another plan. Saying “No!” to their prayers was the only way to accomplish that plan, God’s vision, for them and for us.
            Just like Jonah, Paul, and Jesus, God takes us where we don’t want to go because he is doing something that is meant to glorify him through our lives, meant to bless others through us. His vision is bigger than our comfort, more glorious than our need for health, happiness, satisfaction, or even earthly life. He is doing something more, something wondrous, something nearly unimaginable.
            In John 21:18-19, Jesus tells Peter:
“Very truly I tell you, when you were younger you dressed yourself and went where you wanted; but when you are old you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go.” Jesus said this to indicate the kind of death by which Peter would glorify God. Then he said to him, “Follow me!”
            God’s main concern isn’t to make our nightmares go away. It’s to build our character, teach us to trust him more fully, and help us to make a difference in the lives of those around us as we find the deep places of God in the dark places of life. God’s will is that, by life or by death, we would glorify him.
            So when he leads you where you don’t want to go, remember he is with you. He loves you. He is working his will. Yes, even in the nightmares.
            Because there, he is whispering to you, “There is no other way to make you into the person I created you to be. There is no other way to affect the lives of those around you. This is the way, walk in it (Isa. 30:21).”
            Through fear, through terror, through every nightmare-come-true, he is saying, “Follow me!”

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Worship, Work, and Psalm 100 … here's something to chew on!

Hi Friends,
I just finished doing a bunch of work for Skyline Engineering, and I was reminded of the study I did on Psalm 100 and work awhile back.  I dug it up and am pondering what it means to worship… what it means to worship at work!  

Anyway, I thought you might find this helpful too.  So, wherever you work -- at home, on the road, in an office, outdoors -- may your work and worship reflect the truths of Psalm 100!

Where do you worship?  When I ask most Christians that question, I always get the same answer – the church they attend on Sundays.  And no wonder.  On Sunday mornings we go to worship services, are called to worship by worship leaders, sing songs led by worship teams.  In our culture, worship is what we do on Sunday mornings.  Work is what we do the rest of the week.
            But a closer look at Psalm 100 shows us that maybe we’ve got it all wrong.  Psalm 100:2-3 says:

2 Worship the LORD with gladness; come before him with joyful songs.  3 Know that the LORD is God. It is he who made us, and we are his….

            At first glance, these verses don’t seem to have anything to do with our work  That is, until we realize the Hebrew word used for “worship” in verse two is the same word (abad) used in Exodus 20:9: “Six days you shall labor and do all your work …”  It’s also often translated “serve.”

            Consider the difference when we read Exodus 20:9 in that way:  “Six days you shall worship, you shall serve, and do all your business . . .”  Worship, then, is not just that thing we do in the church building on Sunday mornings.  Worship is what we do in our business; it’s what we do the other six days of the week. 
            If worshipping God, serving Him, is for our workday, then how does that change how we go about doing our regular work?  Again, Psalm 100 helps us to understand.
            Verse two calls us to worship the Lord with gladness.  What attitude do we bring to our work?  Do we complain about it as if it’s a burden?  Is our work something we just get through to make a few bucks?  Or do we engage in our business with an attitude of joy and thankfulness?  If work is worship, then our attitude needs to be one of gladness to serve.
            Psalm 100 also calls us to come before His presence with singing.  While our actual work situation may not allow us to literally sing, we can, at least, pay attention to what’s coming out of our mouths at work.  If work is worship, then things like grumbling and gossip are out of place.  Instead, our speech needs to be more like a song – filled with light and grace. 
            Verse three reminds us to know that the Lord is God and we are His.  We are not the “god” of our workplace.  When we manage others, interact with customers, deal with fellow workers in the workplace, we do it with humility knowing that God is the “big boss” and we are not.

            In the end, Psalm 100 tells us that the Biblical view of worship is for everyday, for our work days.  It’s not just a Sunday event.  We do it with gladness, grace, and humility, knowing that we are worshipping our real boss in heaven.

Friday, March 7, 2014

Quotes to Live By

Hi Friends,

So, yes, I overdid it yesterday.  Alas!  Tried to squeeze too much into one day (and this is not the first time I've done that . . .).  Got up early to shower and make sure I didn't put on deodorant or lotion for my yearly mammo (oh joy. ;-/), then finished a script for a Easter drama for our big all-church kids event for Easter (ooooo, that's going to be so fun!), then had a meeting with our church's outreach director (fabulous lady!) to talk about the kids' Easter outreach events we're doing at 3 apartment complexes next month (those are going to be awesome too -- we are probably going to have the chance to share Jesus with around 150 or more kids in our community, plus do fun crafts, games, etc.  How amazing is that?!). Then talked to our church preschool coordinator (another fantastic lady!) about the Easter all-kids event and other kids-ministry related stuff, then took Bethany to FIX, recruited for the Easter drama, took Joelle to dinner and yogurt, took her to FIX, recruited more, went to Zumba (ouch, my knees!! gotta do something about that!), back to pick up at FIX and talk to a bunch of kids about a bunch of stuff, take a friend home, stop at Subway (really, Bethany?!!?), home, take care of a bunch of paperwork, finally fall in bed after 10:30pm.

Makes me tired just reading all that!  So, no wonder I'm feeling a bit "off" today and needing some recuperation time.  Do you ever do too much and need some time to get your feet back under you?  What helps you?  For me, I am today reminding myself of the four quotes I keep on "stickies" on my computer.  Here they are:

1) Return to your rest, O my soul, for the Lord has dealt bountifully with you.  --Psalm 116:7 (sent by my friend Ethel Herr, who has since found  her real and everlasting rest in heaven!)

2) I want and I choose that which leads to God’s life deepening in me.   --Ignatius of Loyola (sent by my friend, Diane Pate, who understands how I am)

3) Remember … YOU ARE ALLOWED TO CHOOSE LIFE !!! (sent to me by the wiser me!)

4)  For this reason also, since the day we heard of it, we have not ceased to pray for you to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, 

so that you will walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, to please Him in all respects, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in knowledge of God;

strengthened with all power, according to His glorious might, for the attaining of all steadfastness and patience, joyously 

giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified us to share in the inheritance of the saints in Light.

Colossians 1:9-12
(sent to me recently by my friend, Patricia Schooley, who "gets it")

Okay, off I go to have some rest … while watching Thing One and Thing Two (otherwise known as Jayden and Jordyn), and meditating on these words of life from friends.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Sharing Your Sore Spots

Hi Friends,

Well, on Monday I talked at my MOPS group about what I learned from Bethany and Bandaids.  I talked about the value of sharing our sore spots, taking off the bandaids in our lives and opening up our owies to the fresh, healing air of others.  (See that story below!!)

Then on Tuesday I talked to my counselor … and here I am to share one of my sore spots.  The counselor told me a disturbing fact.  Apparently I am STILL not God.  Sigh.  What a disappointment! Apparently I can't do everything for everyone all the time and meet all the needs and do all the tasks and smile and be happy in the whirl
wind of everything that must be done.  I am, alas, not omnipotent, omnipresent, or even omniscient.  I am merely human.  And so, to be happy, healthy, and wise, I must live within the limits that God has created for me.  Instead of trying to do-all, be-all, perfect-all, I'm supposed live in the reality of my favorite Bible verse (you'd think I would have gotten it by now, but apparently I still struggle):

Ephesians 2:10:  For you are God's MASTERPIECE, created in Christ Jesus to do good works that HE has ALREADY before-prepared for you to walk around in. (That's my translation out of the Greek.)

He's got what I need to do all prepared for me, like a parent prepares everything his child needs to do a fun craft project together.  I don't need to try to do everything, just what he's prepared to do, and then I can walk around in it with Him.

Maybe this I'm-not-God-really-I'm-not thing isn't so bad after all . . .

I think I'll go walk around a bit now, and in the meantime, here's the bandaid story from when Bethany was little:


A shriek pierced the air.  Then another.  And another. 
A chill shot through me.  I dropped the papers in my hand and bolted for the door. 
Another scream sliced across my nerves as I sprinted down the hill toward the plastic kiddie pool where my three-year-old daughter was playing with her Daddy.  I spotted her taut-as-a-bow-string body standing next to the pool.  She turned her red, scrunched-up face in my direction and let out another howl.
My husband, Bryan, sat in a chair next to the pool with his arms crossed.  White spots shone on his arms where his fingers pressed into his biceps.
I slowed.  This didn’t look like the near-death, blood-everywhere, broken-bones, 9-1-1 emergency that I was expecting.  Instead, it looked liked a certain little girl was having a fit. 
“Hey, what’s going on here?”  My voice barely carried over Bria’s shrill cries.  “Did she get hurt?” 
Bryan turned toward me.  His eyebrows bunched together in a frown.  “No.”  The words came out like a flat stone hitting water. 
“No?  But –”  I gestured toward Miss Blotchy-Red-Face who was now taking a ragged breath.
Bryan sighed.  “You’re not going to believe this.”  He pointed to the small rectangular bandage on her thigh.  The plastic strip was dangling from the “owie spot” where she’d gotten an immunization two days before.  “I told her we needed to take that bandage off.”
Bryan had hardly finished the sentence when Bria started up again.  “Noooooo,” she wailed, “dooooooon’t.” 
I turned to Bria, but before I could say a word, she clenched both fists and threw back her head.  “I don’t waaaant to take it off.  It’s gonna h-h-huuuuurt.” 
“It’s half off already.” 
 “Noooo, noooo, noooo . . .” 
Bryan threw his hands up in the air.  “I’ve had it.”  He thrust himself from the chair and tromped toward the garage.  “You sit with her.”
I settled into the chair and grabbed Bria’s towel.  “So, I guess you’re done in the pool, huh?” 
Two sniffs, then her arm wiped across her nose.  “No.” 
I raised my eyebrows.
She jumped back into the pool. 
A few minutes later I spotted the bandage floating on water’s surface.  I hid my smile.  “Hey Bria, how ‘bout we take off that band-aid now?”
“Aaaa,” she began, then looked down.  Her cry stopped abruptly.  “Where is it?” 
I pointed to the pale pink strip.  “Guess it didn’t hurt so much after all.” 
She poked at the bandage with her toe.  “It came off.”  
“I didn’t feel it, though.” 
She studied the bandage for a moment then plopped down and starting playing with her bucket. 
As I watched her, I began to chuckle.  All that fuss for nothing.  But I guess I’m no different.  Often for me, too, the anticipation of pain is more than the reality. 
Because God is a good father, He, too, wants to remove the bandages in my life, those things I use to hide old pain.  He asks me to open up, to be vulnerable to Him and others.  But even though I may not holler as shrilly as Bria, in my heart I still often cry, “Nooo.  It’s gonna huuuurt.” 
Yet, God continues to call me to truth rather than hiddenness.  In fact, the Greek word for “truth” in the New Testament has the same root as “unhidden.”  And so, I think about that bandage floating on the water’s surface and wonder if God’s simply trying to tell me that if I trust him and open up, I’ll find that it doesn’t hurt so much after all.  I’ll find that God can and has healed my owies.  And now, it’s time to trust, to risk, and to try something new.

So, these days when God asks me to take off the bandages in my life, I’m trying not to fuss too much.  Instead, I pray, “Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts.  See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.”  (Psalm 139:23-24, NIV)