Welcome to the blog of author Marlo Schalesky!

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

When Nightmares are Real

Hi Friends,

This week is Halloween, so I am thinking about those times we encounter when life seems like a nightmare-come-true.  Times of darkness and pain and doubt and fear and horror  when prayers don't make things all better and when what we were so afraid would happen, does.  I've been in that place.  You maybe have too.  You're maybe there now.

Mary was certainly there.  There, as her own son was condemned to die the most painful and horrific death imaginable.  There, as all her prayers were silenced, and God did not intervene to save her Son.  There, as everything she so feared became reality.  There, as her baby bled and died.  And she watched.

Here's a short excerpt from WRESTLING WITH WONDER about that time.  I hope it will be an encouragement to you in those times when the nightmares become real life ...

WHEN NIGHTMARES COME TRUE 
(Excerpt from Wrestling with Wonder)

Jesus had to die on a Roman cross for our sins so that we might be reconciled to God.
            There was no other way.
            Of course, Mary didn’t know that. But God did. And so do we.
            We know that the Messiah had to die a sinner’s death in our place that we might be free. From Jesus’s prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane, we know that if there were an easier path, God would have chosen it.
            In Matthew 26, Jesus prayed: “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me.”
            And the soldiers, crowds, and Jewish leaders came and arrested him. They bound him. They beat him. They crucified him. And it was the will of God.
            There was no other way.
            The Messiah did not ascend to an earthly throne. The religious leaders did not recognize him. He was rejected, a crown not of gold but of thorns pressed upon his head, anointed not with kingly oil but with his own blood.
            There was no other way. 
            He was sinless, and condemned. He was lied about, and the truth didn’t prevail. He was accused, and said nothing. He was scourged, and not rescued. And then he died on a criminal’s cross.
            There was no other way.
            Because “it was the Lord’s will to crush him,” says Isaiah 53:10. There was no other way for Jesus to satisfy his Messiahship. No other way for the prophecies to be fulfilled. No other way for the promises to come true.
            No easier way for Mary to become who she was always meant to be—not just the mother of the Messiah, but the mother of the Savior.
            “God allows us to experience the low points of life in order to teach us lessons that we could learn in no other way,” says C. S. Lewis in The Problem of Pain.
            The God who called Mary to face her worst fears is the same God who calls us. He calls in those times when the worst happens, when what we feared might happen does happen. When it seems like life has gone from bad to worse and every time we pray something even more awful happens, that is when God is saying to us:
            There is no other way.
            No other way for him to accomplish his will in your life, to make you the person you were meant to be. If this cup could pass, it would.
            But it doesn’t.

            Because this is the way. And sometimes we must walk in it, with faith, with trust, with one foot in front of the other, even when all our fears come true.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Keep On Keeping On … Here's Hope from Wrestling with Wonder!

Hi Friends,

Hebrews 12 tells us to run with perseverance the race set out for us.  It tells us to move forward, keep going, looking to Jesus who perfects our faith.  A week ago, I wrote a post for the blog of my friend, Bonnie Leon.  She wanted me to talk about pushing through when times get tough and you feel like quitting.  And that's something I know something about!

Here's what I shared with Bonnie and her readers.  I thought you might be encouraged too . . .

DISCOURAGED, UNDONE, FEELING LIKE GIVING UP?  READ ON …

I hold a book in my hands.  It’s called Wrestling with Wonder, a Transformational Journey through the Life of Mary.  It released last week.  I hold it and I shake my head because I know there’s no logical reason that this book should be a book.  

But it is a book, and a story, and testimony, and a wonder.  A thing somehow born when I was done ... when I was undone.  It was born when I had just had it with writing, with life, with everything that made my days the crazy mess that they were.

Wrestling with Wonder was born on the day when another rejection broke the proverbial camel’s back, when I couldn’t go on, when I crumbled like a sad little rag doll on the floor of my laundry room.  

I share this story in the book’s introduction.  Here’s how it happened, when God saw me when I was done, and undone, and showed me the truth that kept me pressing on:

It happened like this:

My palms press into the cold tile of the laundry room floor.  Harsh, unyielding, the sound of my pain lost in the steady thumping of the dryer, the slosh of cleansing clothes, and the wicked whisper of words that for the moment, I believe.

I am Esau. Unloved. Unchosen.  
I am Cain. Rejected. Cast away.  

What am I doing here, a broken mess on the laundry room floor?  To my shame, it isn’t even tragedy that has driven me to my knees.  It’s not my 20 years of infertility.  Of discovering that despite all my prayers, all my hopes, all the long and painful procedures, I am not pregnant again.  I’ve been there.  But not today.

It’s not my six miscarriages.  Not hoping beyond hope, cradling a belly that’s supposed to hold new life, and losing.  Again.  I’ve been there too.  But not today.

It’s not a dead father, a difficult childhood, a death, a divorce in the family.  Those have brought me to my knees, made me wrestle, made me weep.  But not today.

Today, it’s nothing, really.  And it’s everything.  It’s a hundred little things piled up on a day my husband is away on business, my baby just threw up, the toddler is crying, and I received another rejection.  A small one, telling me I was unchosen. Unwanted. Passed by.  

I should be happy anyway.  After all, life is good.  It’s good enough.  But I’m not fine.  And I’m not happy.  Instead, I am on the floor, listening to the thump and slosh and crying out to a God who I’m sure doesn’t care.  And all the pain is back again.  Of miscarriage and infertility, of death and disappointment.  Of rejection, of hope lost.  I feel it all again, and I am undone.

Why?  Why am I a ragged mess, a broken child?  Why am I a woman weeping on the floor when I’m supposed to be writing a talk on the wonder of God’s immeasurable love?  When I’m supposed to know, supposed to believe, supposed to no longer doubt?  But I do doubt.  And wrestle.  Again.  Still.

Who am I?  Who is this God I say I believe, I say I trust?

Slosh.  I hear the sound.  And in it, a whisper.  Less than a whisper.  Only a wisp.  It is not easy to become clean.  You must be tossed, spun.  Beaten.  

Thump.  It is a long process.  Hot.  Harsh.  Unyielding.

And I see.  I understand.  A bit.  A glimpse.  A tiny glimmer of who I am.  Who God is.

I shudder and push myself up from the hard tile.  Cold on my fingertips.  Chilling.  God?  I watch the clothes rumble and spin.  I watch.  And breathe.  

Then, I glance left, to the changing table.  The place where baby often squirms and shouts, cries and struggles as I work to make her clean.  The place where she has grown from a tiny bundle that knew me only as a blur and scent, to an almost-toddler who can hear the whisper of my voice from the other room and know that Mommy is near.  

I step closer and run my hand over the terrycloth surface.  I love her.  But when she lies here, she doesn’t understand.  She knows she doesn’t want to be here, she wants to get down and play.  But I make her stay.  I hold her still.  I clean her.  I do it because she is my loved one, my daughter, my favored child.  But she doesn’t understand my love.

I don’t understand His.  But the glimmer widens.  

Perhaps I am not Esau.  I am not Cain.  Instead, I am like another woman who knelt in the darkness, waiting to be cleansed.  A woman who wept and did not understand.  A woman whom God called “highly favored” and yet who found herself at a cross, with all her dreams crushed, all her beliefs challenged.

And that’s when I see it.  I am Mary.  The favored one. Not the cute little figurine in my Precious Moments nativity set.  Not the peaceful-looking statue holding the form of a baby in my childhood church.  But the woman for whom God’s favor looked like a stable, like rejection, like kneeling at the foot of that bloodstained cross.  

What if God’s blessings don’t look like good health, secure finances, and fulfilling relationships?  What if His favor includes pain, poverty, sorrow, and even death?  What if it’s about a hundred little things that seem to go wrong?  What if favor is found through shattered dreams and on cold tile floors.  That was Mary’s life.  And it is mine.  

What if ...
I am not Esau.  
I am not Cain.
I am Mary.  


And that’s how God broke through to me that day.  That’s how this book was born.  That’s how I pushed through being done and undone.   I found truth in a laundry room.  I found that God was not who I expected him to be, that he never had been, and perhaps that was okay.  

So I got up, I tried again.  I walked forward one stumbling, unsteady step at a time.  And I told God that I would write what he would show me about Mary’s life.  I would dig, I would search, I would be faithful to the journey of her life, and mine.  

I would just be faithful.  That’s it.

The rest would have to be up to him.  If he wanted it to become a book, it he wanted that book to be published, if he wanted in the hands of others who could benefit by joining the adventure of Mary’s journey ... well then, that would take some kind of miracle.

And today, I hold a book in my hands.  I hold it and I shake my head because I know there’s no logical reason that this book should be a book.  But God has shown me that he is rarely who I expect him to be; he rarely does what I expect him to do.

But all I have to do is be faithful, one shaky step at a time.  The rest is his job.  

Maybe I like it that way.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

What Kind of King is This? Exclusive Monologue!

Hi Friends,

Well, the launch for WRESTLING WITH WONDER seems to be going well! 

Remember, send me your pictures with you and the book (like the one of Beanie here), and let me know how Wrestling with Wonder is impacting you.  For example, here's what one reader said: 
"[Wrestling with Wonder] has really really been blessing me. Perfect for the season I am in!"

Now, here's a little fun something  While I was writing the book, I had the opportunity to perform two monologues as Mary at my church, using material from my book.  So, I thought it would be fun to share here one of those monologues. Here ya go:

Narration 2 -- What Kind of King?
         He was born.  Born in a barn, wrapped in rags, laid in a feeding trough.  No palace, no crib, no soft silk meant for a king.  The animals were our witnesses.  Lowly shepherds our first visitors. 
         What kind of King is this?
       I held him in my arms. He nestled, and nuzzled. So normal. So real. He let out a cry, his mouth open, searching. I smiled and guided him to eat.  He was strong, this newborn son of mine. Of God’s. This Messiah.
         I rolled the word over in my mind as I gazed down at his pink cheeks, his stock of curly black hair. His eyes were closed, his lashes dark against his skin.
        Messiah. Rescuer. Deliverer. Redeemer. King … Baby.
        What kind of King is this?

            He grew up, my Messiah-Son.  And was nothing like I expected.  He didn’t conquer Rome, he didn’t rule the nations, he didn’t raise an army or free Israel . . . at least not in the way I had dreamed.
            Instead, he asked me to face my deepest fear. My darkest doubt. My nightmare.
            A young man came to me in the night. He came disheveled and out of breath. Told me they had arrested my son. Men came—soldiers, crowds, but not only them, the priests came too. The leaders of my people. They came by night to a garden with clubs and torches and swords. And they took him.
            They took him to Gabbatha, the Stone Pavement. The place of judgment.
            I stood there, shaking, in a courtyard with a crowd. The noonday sun beat down on us, illuminating the stones, the people, the priests, Pilate, and my son, wavering on the platform before me. A glance stole my breath, constricted my heart. I barely recognized him. His eye was swollen, his clothes bloody. He looked like a lamb already slaughtered.
            What kind of King is this?
            He wore a purple robe, as if to mock him. And on his head ... Oh, Lord ... My soul shattered. 
            On his head was a crown made of the thorns of the akanthos bush. Blood runs down his forehead, his cheeks.
            Akanthos, a symbol of my people’s shame ...
            Pilate held up his hand. “Behold your king!” he shouted.
            I covered my face, peeked through my fingers.
            “Do you want me to release for you the King of the Jews?”
            For a moment, hope soared through me.
            And was crushed by a single word: “Barabbas!”
            Just days before the crowds welcomed him like David coming into his kingdom. They laid palm branches, they cried hosanna! They sang, “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Blessed is the king of Israel!” They threw down their coats so the colt’s hooves would not even touch the dirt.
            And I believed he rode in to claim his kingdom at last.
            But what kind of King is this?
            A king isn’t beaten.
            A king isn’t bloody.
            A king doesn’t die a criminal’s death.
            Or does He?
            Pilate spoke again. “What shall I do with this Jesus?” he cried.
            The question drove into me like a soul-piercing sword. It drove through me, became my own. What shall I do with this Jesus? What shall I do with a King destined to die?
            What shall I do with this kind of King? 

Remember, you can find out more (and even read a sample chapter) at www.marloschalesky.com/nonfiction or join me on Facebook at www.facebook.com/MarloSchalesky or on Twitter at www.twitter.com/MarloSchalesky


video


Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Yes!! WRESTLING WITH WONDER is here!

Hi Wonder-Seekers!

Whoo hoo, yippee, yay, yahoo, happy-Snoopy-dance … WRESTLING WITH WONDER is finally here.

If you're looking for a moving read, something that will touch the deep parts of your soul and offer hope and encouragement in all of life's crazy circumstances, then this book is for you!

If everything's going perfectly in your life, just as planned and expected, no surprises, no detours, no messes, no disappointments or doubts … well, then, this is definitely NOT the book for you.  You'll just have to buy it as a gift for a friend instead!

So, you can get the book anywhere you like to buy your books.  If that happens to be Amazon, here's a convenient link: http://amzn.to/1n6BoEs

There's also more info, including a sample chapter and an interview, as well as other convenient purchase links, on my website at www.marloschalesky.com/Nonfiction


EXCLUSIVE EXTRAS BELOW!!
And now, just for fun, here's something extra just for my blog readers.  There are two small sections that were cut from the end of the chapters -- a "Listen to the Whisperer" section and a section of Journal Prompts.

Here are those two sections from the end of chapter one:

Listen to the Whisperer ... Making It Real, Making it Personal
Close your eyes.  Imagine the angel Gabriel appearing in front of you.  He approaches you.  And speaks.  He begins with a call to rejoice.  He gives you a new name.  And he affirms God’s presence.  
Listen to God.  Do not be afraid.  He is calling you.  Perhaps he’s saying something like this: 
Be happy, my favored one, I am right here, so very close to you. Don’t let fear determine your hopes and actions anymore.  I am inviting you to live fear-free, to live in a new kind of joy.  I love you.  You are mine.  And today, I am whispering a new call in your ear.  I’m asking you to release all those things that you thought your life ought to be.  Instead, come to me, embrace my plans, my dreams for you.  You don’t see them all now, but I’ve prepared a life especially for you, a life that will shape you into my glorious masterpiece, a reflection of Jesus, my son.  Wait for me.  Believe it’s true.  Remember all I have done.  Trust me, for I know the plans I have for you, and they are filled with mystery, and wonder ...

Journaling prompts:  
Get a piece of paper or open your journal.  Write the word “Rejoice!” at the top of the page.  Then, consider this:  If God were to give you a new name today, what would it be?  Beloved?  Favored One?  Precious Child? Write that name next to the word “Rejoice!”  
Below that, write five words that stood out to you in this chapter.
In a new paragraph,  write about the goals and dreams you’ve had for your life.  Take a moment, and then put a big X across those dreams.  
Next, write down what the angel Gabriel might say to you, specifically and personally.  What is the impossible thing that he is calling you to today?  Write God’s special call to you.
Then, make a list of the impossible, improbable things that God has already brought about in your life and/or the lives of those you know.  Meditate on what he’s done.
Now, reread his call to you.

Finally, if you dare, write your response.  What will you say to this God who is both dream-taker and dream-maker?  Will you surrender?



Wednesday, October 1, 2014

The One-Week Countdown Has Begun!!

Hi Friends,
The big release date for Wrestling with Wonder is less than a week away!!  Whoo-Hoo!  Plan to buy your copy on Tuesday.  :-)  And when you do, send me a picture of you and the book (here's a photo from my sis-in-law, Jill, who has an advanced copy).  I'd love to see you and the book (and that'll give me a chance to pray for you specially too).

Meanwhile,  here's an bit of an excerpt from the end of chapter one for you to enjoy.  Each chapter has a final section titled WHO IS THIS GOD?  Here is that section in chapter one:

WHO IS THIS GOD?
            But I accepted Christ years ago, you may say. What does this have to do with me?
            Everything.
            Because I think God often breaks into our ordinary, everyday lives with a call to more. It may be in the kitchen, in the classroom, in the office, or even in the laundry room. And there he is, interrupting our lives with a greater vision, a deeper call. Wooing us to wonder with an impossible dream. With his dream, and not ours.
            Because he is with us.
            So, we must ask: Who is this God? Who is he who interrupts our lives with a call to the impossible?       
           
            He is the Dream Taker and the Dream Maker.
           
            The Dream Taker
            “Follow your dreams!” says the world.
            “Die to self,” says God. “Die to your plans, your dreams, your tight-fisted grip on what your life should be.”
            “You can do anything you set your mind to!” says the world.
            “I am God, you are not,” says God. “Submit to me, and together we will do everything I set my mind to.”
            “Be somebody!” says the world. “Accomplish, achieve, fight your way to the top!”
            “Be mine,” says God. “Stop striving and instead rest in my plans for you. Will you be my handmaiden?”
           
            The Dream Maker
            Meditate on these verses. Hear in them God’s call to you:
·      “Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart” (Psalm 37:4). Not “Take delight in the Lord and he will do whatever you want.” Instead, he will give you the desires themselves—new desires, new dreams, his dreams for you. His dreams will becomes yours!
·      “For we are God’s masterpiece, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God has already prepared for us to walk around in” (Eph. 2:10, translation mine). He has already favored us with a plan and a call. It’s all prepared. You just have to let go and step forward.
·      I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord (Jeremiah 29:11, emphasis mine). And they aren’t our plans. They aren’t our dreams. They aren’t our carefully scripted ideas for what our lives should be. Instead, they are a call to the impossible—to loss, confusion, difficulty, misunderstandings, ridicule ... and ultimately to wonder.
            So in the great calls, and in the small: Rejoice, fear not, and submit. Whisper to God, “Let it be to me as you have said.”
            Do you dare? Mary did. And so the adventure began ... an adventure that would look nothing like her expectations. She would enter a life that at every turn seemed to go awry, where nothing would make sense, where doubt and confusion, pain and fear were her companions, where the Son of God himself would seem to have lost his mind.
            But she would find him on the journey and become who she was always meant to be.
            What about me? What about you?
            Do you long for your own wild and wondrous adventure with an unexpected God who does the impossible in ways we never imagined? If so, let go! Open your white-knuckled fingers wrapped around your ordinary plans. Accept the wild, crazy gift of a call that will defy all your expectations.
            Because once you say yes, you will embark on a journey where nothing is as it seems, nothing happens as expected. A journey that will lead to the foot of a cross ...
            So ...
                        Rejoice ...
                                    Fear Not ...
                                                Submit ...
Do you dare?
If so, turn the page, and hang on . . .