Welcome to the blog of author Marlo Schalesky!

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Lessons from a CAT on Prayer

Hi Friends,

I came home today after buying our first artificial Christmas tree (Can you say YAY No Cleaning Up Needles!?) to find my cat sitting right next to the driveway waiting for me. I looked at him. He looked at me. I said hi. He meowed. And I was reminded of we got our cat and what he taught me about prayer. Here's a little bit about that:

Rat tat tat. A muffled tapping reverberated from the windowpane beside my office desk. I stood, and the sound stopped. Slowly, I reached for the shade. Before I could reach it - Thump, thump, thump.

“Who’s there?” My whispered hiss dissolved in the night.

Silence answered, followed again by the insistent rapping.

I took a deep breath, lifted the corner of the shade, and peeked outside. Round, green eyes peered back at me. I dropped the shade.

“Bryan, you aren’t going to believe this.”

Bryan sauntered in from the other room.

This time, I pulled up the shade all the way to reveal a gray, furry face lit by the glow of my office lamp. “Meow.” The cat blinked, then batted his paw against the glass again.

Bryan stepped closer. “Whose cat is that?”

I shrugged my shoulders. “I’ve never seen him before.”

We contemplated the cat.

The cat contemplated us.

I glanced at Bryan. “I think he’s hungry.”

He crossed his arms. “You know we can’t --”

“I know.” I sighed. We had plenty of stray cats crossing our property, so we knew that unless we wanted a cat farm, we’d better not put out any food. But then, none of those cats had ever come knocking at the window.

“Meow.” The cat rubbed his cheek against the window then squished his nose against the pane.
I walked toward the door and opened it.
A moment later, Bryan appeared behind me. “Here.” He held up an opened can of tuna.

I grinned, took the can, and set it down on the porch.

The next morning, we opened the door to find the cat curled in a ball on the doormat.

Bryan shook his head. “Well, it looks like we have a pet cat.”

“You don’t like cats.”

“I know.”

We stood for a moment in silence.

“Let’s name him Banjo.”

I smiled. “Okay.”

Bryan opened the door, and the cat trotted in like he’d been doing it for years.

In Matthew 7:7 (NIV), Jesus says, “Ask and it will be given to you, seek and you will find, knock and the door will be opened to you.” I’ve always been caught up in the idea that sometimes I’ve asked God and I’ve not received what I’ve asked for. But Banjo has given me new insight into the verse.

Unlike the other cats on our property, Banjo took a risk because he was hungry, for food and for love. He decided to try, to persist, to not give up. He knocked on the window until someone came, until I went out and met his need.

To us, Banjo was just a stray cat. To God, I’m a beloved child. So, if I respond to Banjo’s bold persistence, how much more will God respond to me, whom he loves.

And just like Banjo, I may not get exactly want I’m wanting – after all, if Banjo had his way, he’d curl up on our bed and make it his own. But, while we sometimes let him in, we’ve decided he’s better as an outdoor cat. He still bats at the window whenever he wants food, or attention. And we still feed him, play with him, and call him our own. We’ve gotten him a collar with his name, a little house to sleep in outside, a food bowl and a water dish. He’s our cat now, and we make sure that even though he may not get everything he wants, he has everything he needs.

These days, when I feel like giving up in prayer, when I’m tempted to think that God doesn’t care, I remember Banjo’s furry face pressed against the windowpane. And I remind myself that God will feed me, will give me what I need in him, and more importantly, welcomes me into his loving family. So, when I’m cold, hungry, and it’s dark outside, I’m going to keep knocking on the window to heaven and meowing my heart to God.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Tasting the Turkey of Heaven

Hi Friends!

First, let me wish you a very Happy Thanksgiving. Do you ever sneak a bit of turkey before the big meal? Tiptoe into the kitchen and try a little bite? Slip a piece into your mouth as your cutting up the bird and placing it onto the platter? Well, if so, I've got a story for you. And here it is:

"Yum!" It was Thanksgiving day and I was in the kitchen, sneaking bits of turkey while no one was looking. To my ten-year-old mind, nothing could compare to Mom’s perfectly cooked turkey. I stuck my fingers into the warm juice and pulled off another piece. "Ahhh," I sighed and smiled. It was delicious. I glanced around then snatched another bite.

This is my favorite part of Thanksgiving, I thought, licking my fingers as the turkey juices dripped down my hand. I loved to sample the little pieces of turkey that fell to the bottom of the pan during cooking. It was like a special, tasty prize that made my mouth water just to think about it. I jammed a fourth piece of turkey into my mouth and rubbed my belly, enjoying the dual pleasures of taste and smell.

At my Sunday School three days later, Pastor Ron visited our class. He sat down on the stool in front and straightened his collar. His eyes swept over the students. "Let me tell you a story," he began. "There was a man named Joe. Joe spent his life doing stuff that was very bad. He drank. He gambled. He lived a wild life. He swore all the time and never went to church. When he ran out of money, he robbed a store and then continued his bad living. On his death bed, Joe knew he was going to die, so he begged God for forgiveness and decided to trust in Jesus. That night, Joe died and went to Heaven, the same as if he had loved and served God all his life. What do you think of that?"

"Hey, that's not fair!," I burst forth. My cheeks grew red with annoyance.

"No, it's not fair," he agreed. "Not fair to Joe.”

“To Joe?” I questioned. “What do you mean?”

“I mean it's not fair because Joe missed the greatest joys in life."

"But he was bad!” I exclaimed, sputtering in confusion. “If he could get into heaven, why should I bother to do what I’m told? I may as well go out and rob a store too!”

My Pastor smiled. “Do you really think so?”

I lowered my head and stared at my feet. Then, I shrugged my shoulders.

Pastor Ron cleared his throat.

I looked up at him again. His mouth was quirked in a strange half-grin.

"Tell me," he continued, "have you ever sneaked into the kitchen to taste a little bit of turkey before the Thanksgiving meal?"

I drew a quick breath and nodded my head. My eyes grew wide in shock. How had he known? I remembered back to my time in the kitchen just three days before. Yes, I knew very well what it was like to taste the turkey. It was great!

"Well," he said, glancing at the rest of the class, "that's just what it's like for you and me. All the time we spend serving God in this life is just like sneaking into the kitchen to taste the turkey. We get a little taste of heaven before the great banquet. Joe, on the other hand, doesn't get to taste the turkey in this life. He has to wait. Just think of all the fun he missed out on here in this life."

"Wow," I whispered, "I never thought of it like that.

Pastor Ron chuckled. "Now, every time you sneak a bit of turkey, you can think about the fact that every day you spend serving God is a little taste of heaven here on earth."

To this day, I still sneak my little bit of turkey before the Thanksgiving meal, and every time I thank God for another day spent in His love, tasting the turkey of Heaven.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Hearts Evergreen by Robin Lee Hatcher

Hi Friends,

Got a great book to tell you about today. It's Hearts Evergreen by Robin Lee Hatcher. Here's a bit about it and her:

Just in time for the holidays, Robin Lee Hatcher has released a new Christmas romance.
In A Cloud Mountain Christmas (Robin's story in Hearts Evergreen, a collection of two novellas from Steeple Hill), Maddie Scott, reeling from the news that her ex-husband has remarried and is expecting a child, heads to Idaho's Cloud Mountain Lodge to negotiate the sale of a valuable manuscript discovered there. But could the lodge's proprietor, Tony Anderson, a man she knew years before in college, be just what Maddie needs to have a merry Christmas after all?

About Hearts Evergreen, the Library Journal says: "Two holiday novellas by a Christy Award winner (Hatcher) and a rising author in the inspirational romance genre (Springer) offer romantic fare perfect for curling up in front of the fireplace with a cup of hot chocolate."
To read an excerpt from A Cloud Mountain Christmas, visit Robin's web site:

The winner of the Christy Award for Excellence in Christian Fiction, two RITA Awards for Best Inspirational Romance, two RT Career Achievement Awards, and the RWA Lifetime Achievement Award, Robin Lee Hatcher is the author of over 50 novels, including Catching Katie, named one of the Best Books of 2004 by the Library Journal. She enjoys being with her family, spending time in the beautiful Idaho outdoors, reading books that make her cry, and watching romantic movies. She is passionate about the theater, and several nights every summer, she can be found at the outdoor amphitheater of the Idaho Shakespeare Festival, enjoying Shakespeare under the stars. She makes her home outside of Boise, sharing it with Poppet the high-maintenance Papillon.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

How God Transforms the Yucky Stuff

Hi Friends,

As many of you know, this has been a year of challenges for me. So lately, I've been thinking of the transforming power of God, and how He takes the yucky stuff in life and can make it into bits of beauty. And as I've been pondering, I've been thinking in particular of a certain experience that illuminated that for me recently. Here's how it happened:

A pair of black, beady eyes stared into mine from across my pillow. I leapt up. “Aargh! Ewwww!” My yell reverberated off the rafters. I bit my lip to cut off another shout.

Bryan jolted up and rubbed his hand over his face. “What’s wrong? What is it?”

“Yuck! Look.” I pointed a shaking finger at the green, squirmy caterpillar now inching across my pillowcase. A chill fishtailed down my spine.

Bryan glanced at the insect and yawned. “Oh, is that all?” He laid back down and rolled over.

I scowled. Didn’t he realize that nasty green worm had been just inches from my nose? That was worth a good yell, and then some. I reached over and plucked a fistful of tissues from the box beside the bed. Then, I poised my hand over the squirmy creature and took a deep breath.

Icky little worm. I paused. It wasn’t a worm. And I knew it. It was a caterpillar. My instincts said to smush it, mush it, squish it into oblivion. But I didn’t. Instead, I wrinkled up my nose and carefully scooped it into the tissues. Next, I went downstairs and placed it gently on the deck railing outside.

For a moment, I watched as the caterpillar crawled to the back side of a post and disappeared.

Then, I went back to bed.

“It would have been easier just to squash it,” Bryan murmured.

I sighed. “I know.”

“Nature lover.” I could hear the smile in his voice as he rustled deeper into the covers.

I checked my pillow one last time (no bugs!) then closed my eyes. Bryan’s words rang in my mind. But it wasn’t because I was a nature lover that I didn’t smush the caterpillar. It was because, as much as I didn’t like green, squirmy critters on my pillow, I did love butterflies. And I had faith that my beady-eyed intruder would soon turn into a beautiful butterfly. That’s why I scooped instead of squashing.

As I laid there, with sleep eluding me, I began to think about the wonder of transformation. A caterpillar, I realized, wasn’t the only yucky thing that had happened in my life. There were other things, like infertility, failures, difficult relationships, that I wanted to just squish and forget about. But perhaps, just perhaps, God could transform those too, just like the caterpillar. Maybe He could transform my pain, my experiences, into something useful in the lives of others, something beautiful in the Kingdom of God.

I glanced at my jewelry box on the dresser. Inside were three different cross necklaces and a gold pair of cross earrings. The cross – a perfection picture of how God transforms the ugly into the beautiful. I wouldn’t wear a hangman’s noose or a guillotine or a gilded electric chair. But I do wear crosses. Why? Because God has transformed the cross. It’s where death turned to life, where joy triumphed over sorrow, where my life was redeemed. The cross, once nothing more than an executioner’s tool, is now a symbol of God’s redeeming love. And if God could do that, and if he could turn a squirmy caterpillar into a gorgeous butterfly, then he could take the awful things in my life and transform them, too, for His glory.

Romans 8:28 (NIV) says that “in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” It doesn’t say that all things are good that happen in my life, but that God can turn the hard things into good. He can make them into a shining testimony of His love and faithfulness.

But if they are going to be transformed, I need to take those difficult, sometimes painful experiences, and offer them to Him. I need to open my hand and let the caterpillar go free, believing in faith that one day soon it will be changed into a beautiful butterfly.

Monday, November 12, 2007


Hi Friends,

I've got a fun chick-lit novel to introduce to you today. This one's Splitting Harriet by Tamara Leigh.

Here's a bit about it:
Preacher’s kid and prodigal Harriet Bisset returned to her church and her family in Franklin, Tennessee, seven years ago. Once the proud owner of two tattoos and a nose ring, Harri is now addicted to Jelly Bellys in lieu of hangovers and Bible verses in lieu of foul language.

The good news is that she has everything under control: a part-time position as director of women’s ministry, a church family that adores her, a rent-free home in a senior mobile home park, and the possibility of owning the cafĂ© where she waitresses. Nothing could tempt Harri to return to her old ways. Nothing but a 1298 cc, liquid-cooled, sixteen-valve, in-line four-cylinder motorcycle—and the church consultant riding it.

Reformed rebel Maddox McCray’s arrival at First Grace spells C-H-A-N-G-E for the dying church. And it just might mean change for Harri when Maddox sets out to convince her that even Christians are allowed to have fun.

The story of a prodigal daughter’s transformation, Splitting Harriet reminds readers of God’s delight in forgiving, loving, and enjoying the ride.

And a bit about Tamara:
Tamara Leigh’s first novel, Warrior Bride, was published in 1994 and was followed by six more bestselling, award-winning historical romances for Bantam, HarperCollins, and Dorchester. Leigh’s inspirational chick lit debut, Stealing Adda, was published in 2006 to great critical acclaim. Leigh has also written for Romantic Times magazine and been a guest speaker for WaldenBooks’s corporate conference. Leigh lives outside of Nashville, Tennessee, with her husband and two sons and enjoys time with her family, volunteer work, faux painting, and reading.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

NOBODY by Creston Mapes

Hi Friends,

Two things today. First there's an auction of books and writing services going on at: http://www.aotearoaeditorial.com/webauction-0.2/index.php to raise $$ for a friend's much needed surgery. I've donated some of my books, and I see a number of different authors are donating theirs too. So, stop on by the auction and see if there's something you want to bid on. All $$ goes toward the emergency surgery.

Second, I wanted to introduce you to a new novel by Creston Mapes. Creston's publisher is the same as mine for my next three novels. And this book looks very, very interesting. Here's what Creston has to say about it:

A Note from Creston:

NOBODY was released Sept. 11 by Multnomah and seems to be doing very well. Yay. It's my third novel with Multnomah in three years and is a stand alone. The first two books, Dark Star: Confessions of a Rock Idol and Full Tilt were made up a two book series known as The Rock Star Chronicles.

The story behind NOBODY is pretty cool. I was with my late father, Bernie, at a park in St. Augustine, FL, when we saw a homeless mansitting on a park bench, clutching a loaf of bread, tearing off pieces, eating some and throwing chunks to the dozens of black birds all around him. My dad noted that "he" would be a good subject for a book.

Then, when my publisher suggested Las Vegas as a backdrop, and a research visit to that city, I set up a day with Brian Brooks of the Nevada Health Centers, who took me all over the Vegas homeless community. We visited free clinics, talked to doctors and nurses, went to the soup kitchens and encampments where they "live." I also met with Jud Wilhite, pastor of Vegas's booming Central Christian Church (10,000-12,000). Jud shared a moving poem with me called I Stand By The Door, which amazingly aligned with my spiritual walk of getting too steeped in the church, and not concerned enough about the people outside the doors of it.

Since I was a reporter at one time, my main character, Hudson Ambrose, is a reporter for the Las Vegas Review Journal, the city's real paper, which I visited when in Las Vegas. The book begins when Hud hears a pre-dawn call on the police scanner at the newspaper about an injured person at a bus stop along The Strip. When he arrives, he finds a murdered homeless man. Waiting around for the police, Hud knows the case will get tied up in red tape when they do arrive. He wants to get an ID on the guy before the police come. He can hear the sirens bearing down. Quickly, he searches the man's pockets and is shocked to find a bank book with close to a million dollars in it. A safe deposit box key drops into the puddle of blood at the man's feet. Hud's got a decision to make.

And off we go into NOBODY, and Hudson Ambrose's breakneck investigation into the life of the homeless man, Chester Holte. Why was a former rich Atlanta business mogul living homeless on the streets of Las Vegas? What happened after his wife died in their private plane crash. Who was the beautiful Holly Queens and what was her relationship with Chester? And why does virtually everyone in the Las Vegas homeless community believe Chester was an angel in disguise?

For more, visit http://www.crestonmapes.com/

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Decisions: Making Them Right

Hi Friends,

This week I've been thinking about who, and what, we let make our decisions for us. And I've come up with two bad decision makers (besides the obvious emotional ones like anger, discouragement, pride, etc.) and one good one. I think you'll be surprised. So, today, instead of a story with a spiritual point, let's consider, briefly, the things that we shouldn't give the final say when we're making important decisions in our lives. Here are what I propose are the BAD ones:

1) Fear. Did you know that "Fear not!" is the most prevalent command in the Bible? Well, it is, and I think the reason for that is fear makes us stupid. Oh, that sounds harsh, doesn't it. But I think it's true when it comes to making good decisions in life. We're afraid to take a risk, so we don't start that new business. We're afraid to travel, or take off work, or do something new, so we don't try that short term missions trip. We're afraid we'll fail, so we don't try. We get comfortable with the familiar and so don't want to step into the new places God is calling us to. So, I say, BEWARE! When you're making a decision about what to do, what not to do, is it fear that's having the final say?

2) Money. The Bible says we can either serve God or Money, but not both. Usually, we take this to mean that we shouldn't be greedy and pursue money as our ultimate goal. But consider, if we let money be our final decision maker, then we're also letting it be our god. Too often I've heard people say "I can't afford it" to things they really need to do. They let finances excuse them from the best decision. Or, people will excuse sin because "I need the money." So, I say, BEWARE! Don't let money make your decisions for you. Money can be a factor, but not THE factor.

So, what's the good one? Who or what should we put in the top place for making decisions. I know you're expecting me to say God, and of course that's the right answer. But what does it mean? What does God say we should give top priority? Here's what I think:

Here's what Proverbs 2 says:
Proverbs 2:1-12: My son, if you accept my words and store up my commands within you, 2 turning your ear to wisdom and applying your heart to understanding, 3 and if you call out for insight and cry aloud for understanding, 4 and if you look for it as for silver and search for it as for hidden treasure, 5 then you will understand the fear of the LORD and find the knowledge of God. 6 For the LORD gives wisdom, and from his mouth come knowledge and understanding. 7 He holds victory in store for the upright, he is a shield to those whose walk is blameless, 8 for he guards the course of the just and protects the way of his faithful ones. 9 Then you will understand what is right and just and fair-- every good path. 10 For wisdom will enter your heart, and knowledge will be pleasant to your soul. 11 Discretion will protect you, and understanding will guard you. 12 Wisdom will save you from the ways of wicked men, from men whose words are perverse …

So, how to be wise? James 1 says:
James 1:5: If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him.

So, we pray, ask, and try to figure out what's right, what's best . . . even if that thing is what we fear, and even if we can't afford it or need the money. The main question is: What's the right thing to do? After that, we find a way to tame our fears, or to finance what needs to be paid for. We have to find a way to do what's right. Because there's always a way to do the right thing. There's always a way to choose wisdom over fear or finances. Even if the way is narrow.

So, this week, I encourage you, and I encourage me, to think about how you make your big decisions -- to see where fear and finances are taking the top spot instead of God and wisdom. Look for wisdom as for hidden treasure. And fear no one, fear nothing, except for God Himself.

And may all our decisions be wise ones!