Welcome to the blog of author Marlo Schalesky!

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Thoughts on True Sight and Blindness

Hi Friends,

As I've been doing interviews and such about my newest novel, Beyond the Night, I've been thinking more about issues of real sight vs. blindness. What does it mean to see? What does it mean not to? And as I've been pondering, I came across this verse:

If your eyes are good, your whole body will be full of light... (Matthew 6:22)

It reminded me of an experience I had a few years ago. You see, once upon a time, I couldn’t tell a tree from a telephone pole, or a friend from a foe, or a clean room from a dirty one – at least not without my glasses. But a few years ago I had laser eye surgery, and suddenly everything was clear. I could see the intricate beauty of pictures on the wall. I could also see cobwebs gathering in the corner, and the dirt smudges near the light switch.

And I've come to think that the changes God works in me are much like eye surgery. When I’m focused on Him, my vision becomes clear. I can see the intricate details of God’s work in my life and in the world around me. Things I didn’t understand become clear, and I find God is good and loving, even when things don't go as I hoped or planned. But I also see the places in my life that need cleaning, places I may have thought were just fine before.

Good eyes, seeing eyes, allow me to view myself and my world as they really are, the good and the bad. But most importantly, good eyes keep me from being deceived by fear, panic, weariness, wishes, or even politics. With truly seeing eyes, I can tell a friend from a foe, truth from lies, reality from the distractions that spring into my mind. And that’s why I pray that God will keep my eyes on Him and my vision clear. Because true sight isn't about physical vision, it's about discerning what's real. And the only way I can do that is to keep my focus on the author of truth, the only One who sees everything perfectly clearly, from beginning to end, the author of life itself. The clearer I see Him, the clearer I see everything else as well.

God, give us all eyes to see what we need to see!

Monday, August 25, 2008

Book Giveaway Drawing - Wild Goose Chase by Mark Batterson

Hi Friends,

I have a new book to tell you about today - this time, nonfiction. AND if you leave a comment here on my blog, you'll be entered in a drawing to win a FREE COPY of this book. Be sure to check back and see if you won, and if you comment as "anonymous" make sure I have a way to get ahold of you to tell you you've won!

Okay, here's a big about the book:

Book: Wild Goose Chase

Author: Mark Batterson


Most of us have no idea where we’re going most of the time. Perfect.

“Celtic Christians had a name for the Holy Spirit–An Geadh-Glas, or ‘the Wild Goose.’ The name hints at mystery. Much like a wild goose, the Spirit of God cannot be tracked or tamed. An element of danger, an air of unpredictability surround Him. And while the name may sound a little sacrilegious, I cannot think of a better description of what it’s like to follow the Spirit through life. I think the Celtic Christians were on to something….Most of us will have no idea where we are going most of the time. And I know that is unsettling. But circumstantial uncertainty also goes by another name: Adventure.” --from the introduction

Author Bio:
Mark Batterson is the lead pastor of Washington, DC’s National Community Church, widely recognized as one of America’s most innovative churches. NCC meets in movie theaters at metro stops throughout the city, as well as in a church-owned coffee house near Union Station. More than seventy percent of NCC’ers are single twentysomethings who live or work on Capitol Hill. Mark is the author of the best-selling In a Pit with a Lion on a Snowy Day and a widely read blogger (www.markbatterson.com). He lives on Capitol Hill with his wife, Lora, and their three children.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Clothed in Joy ... Thoughts from Madagascar

Hi Friends,

So I'm doing laundry this morning and my 8-year-old announces she has no pants she wants to wear.

"How 'bout these," I say.

"Those are too tiiiiiiight," she says.

"How about these."

"I don't like those."

"Okay, just put on these Christmas stretch pants until the laundry's done in two hours and you can wear whatever you want."

"But I only like to wear those at Christmas." (waa waa waa).

Me: "Good grief. Put them on. You need a trip to Madagascar where the kids are happy just to have clothes to wear."

(Big, heaving sigh) "Oh, all right."

And so I was reminded this morning of the kids I'd met in Madagascar - kids that taught me real joy - joy not tied to "stuff" or circumstances, ease or comfort. Just the joy found in Jesus.

It happened like this . . .

Bump, rattle, jolt - the land rover hiccuped over the furrowed lane of red earth as we made our way into the village of Morarano on the island of Madagascar. I’d come halfway around the world to help build a new church in this tiny village. Little did I know that God had even bigger plans.

We rumbled through the village of mud huts, topped with thick thatched roofs, while dozens of children raced from their homes. With wide eyes and pointing fingers, they scurried after our trucks as we traveled to the far end of the village.

Even as I stepped from the land rover, the beauty of Madagascar struck me - rolling hills, with rice paddies in every valley, trees dotting the landscape, turquoise blue skies, and red, red dirt like a swatch of crimson beneath the horizon. And there, in the valley below us, a little boy herded geese, just like in the fairy tales.

I smiled, slipped on some gloves, and got ready to work. It was then that I heard it. A tiny giggle, a snicker really. I turned. Behind me, a group of children stood with their hands covering their smiles.

"Vazaha.” Foreigner. I heard them whisper the word.

"Hello.” I took a step toward them.

Instantly, they scattered like dandelion seed in the wind. I shook my head and laughed. Then, my face sobered. Poor kids, I thought, looking at their matted hair, runny noses, and the tattered rags they used for clothes.

All that day, and the next, the kids watched and giggled and pointed as our team worked to lay the stone foundation for the 13.5 by 9 meter sanctuary that would service the 1,400 people in Morarano and surrounding villages.

By the third day, the kids had decided that we were okay, calling out "manao ahoana! manao ahoana!” (hello! hello!) as they ran, pell-mell, to greet us.

“Manao ahoana” we called back, pleased with ourselves for mastering one word of the Malagasy language.

As the days passed and the layers of mud and brick reached ever higher on the new church’s walls, I found the happy greeting of the children had changed. No longer did they just call out "hello.” Now they said "manao ahoana namana,” hello friends.

By the last day, the kids didn’t stand and watch as we worked. Each child, even those so small that they could barely walk, pitched in to help. Now, it was my turn to stare with wonder as these tiny children hauled one, two, and sometimes three bricks and handed them to us on the scaffolding.

All too soon, the sun waned in the afternoon sky. With final calls of "veloma" (goodbye) we left the village, our hearts filled with love for the Malagasy people and their sweet, dirt-splotched children.

As the red-mud huts of the village dropped from view, I thought about how the kids worked with us that day, how they had seen past our "foreigner” exterior and called us "friends.” They had stopped whispering "vazaha,” but had I stopped whispering "poor kids?”

I closed my eyes and allowed a hundred memories to sweep through my mind - little Rosa carrying her brother on her back and three bricks in her arms, a group of boys laughing as they pulled one another on the cart we used for hauling stones, the girls giggling as they pointed to themselves and said names that I couldn’t hope to pronounce. These were the kids I had pitied and thought, how sad. How could I possibly associate that word with those bright, joy-filled children?

What’s wrong with me, God? I prayed. Am I blind to happiness unless it’s wrapped in a pretty package?

As I sat and remembered the happy giggles of the children of Morarano, God broke through my blinders. He taught me to see as He sees, for "Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart." (1Samuel 16:7 NIV)

Now, I say, "Rags? What rags?” All I remember are white smiles like the adorning of jewels, glittering robes of laughter, and the unfettered, happy spirits of kids clothed in the joy of Jesus.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Being the YOU God Made You to Be

Hi Friends,

Since attending Leadership Summit last week, I've been thinking about how God made us unique, to do the good works He prepared specifically for us ... each of us. And I was reminded of this story from a few years ago . . .

It wasn’t the knife. Or the bread. Or the cucumber, or cream cheese. It was me. I knew it. But I wasn’t ready to admit it. At least not yet. I can do this, I told myself. I can be the fancy-tea-party hostess, just like Debbie!

I took a deep breath, placed the knife ever so carefully over the cucumber sandwich, and pushed. Surely this time I would make a perfect, neat triangle. But alas, my cut was crooked, a cucumber slipped out, and a bubble of cream cheese oozed over the side of the squashed-looking bread.

The knife clattered into the sink. Who was I kidding, thinking I could host a fancy tea party? To me, a sandwich was either peanut butter and jelly slapped between two pieces of bread, or a fat subway picked up from the local deli counter. I’d never even seen a cucumber sandwich until I’d been to one of Debbie’s elegant tea parties a few months before. So, how could I possibly turn myself into a Debbie-like hostess in just a few short hours?

My husband, Bryan, walked through the kitchen door just as I retrieved the knife from the sink. He looked from me to the stack of coin-sized cucumbers beside me. “What in the world are you doing?”

I straightened my shoulders. “Making sandwiches for the high tea I’m putting on this afternoon.”

“High tea?” His eyebrows rose. “You?”

I pointed my knife at him. “Don’t you dare laugh!”

He made an admirable attempt, but in the end the laugh came out anyway. “You’re kidding, right?”

"Does it look like I’m kidding?”

His gaze wandered over the pile of misshapen sandwich wedges. “Are they supposed to look like that?”

I picked up a baking pan and aimed.

Wisely, Bryan quick-stepped out of the room. I could still hear him chuckling as he opened the front door and headed toward the garage.

I tried one more sandwich – and failed – before I, too, escaped outside. There, a blanket of purple, red, and orange wildflowers bloomed over our property. And mixed among the colors were graceful yellow flowers that looked like daffodils. They would be perfect for a centerpiece bouquet for my tea party. I trotted down the steps and began to pick a few of the long-stemmed flowers. As I did, I noticed several dandelions scattered among the other blossoms. I picked one and twirled it in my fingers. It was yellow like the daffodil, but as far removed in elegance as I was from Debbie.

And yet, as my fingers brushed the soft face, I saw that there was a beauty in the dandelion too. God created it the way it was. And if you turned it just right, it reflected the sun’s rays.

I tucked the blossom into a buttonhole on my shirt and gazed out over the field scattered with flowers. Each, I noticed, was just as God made it to be. The purple flowers didn’t pretend to be orange. The red didn’t masquerade as purple. And the dandelions certainly didn’t try to impersonate daffodils.

In that moment, Ephesians 4:11-12 (NIV) came to mind: “It was [God] who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers . . . so that the body of Christ may be built up.” It was then that I finally admitted that I’d never turn into a daffodil. So, perhaps, I should just try to be the best dandelion I could be. Maybe the important thing was that I, too, reflect the light of the Son who gave me life.

I gathered a few more flowers then returned to the house. There, I arranged the blossoms in a vase, and, just for fun, tucked my dandelion inconspicuously into the center. Debbie, of course, would never have a dandelion in her daffodils. But I wasn’t Debbie. And I didn’t need to be. I just needed to be faithful to God and to the person he made me to be. With a final look at my little dandelion, I headed out to the deli to pick up some less-than-fancy sandwiches for my not-so-high tea.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Photos & Thoughts from Carpenter Booksigning

Hi Friends,

I had a booksigning at The Carpenter last night. It was a lot of fun and quite a few people came out (thanks!!). So, I thought it would be fun to share some pictures from the event. Then, I'll share a few thoughts that came out of a conversation with Bob from the Californian newspaper last night. So, read on!

First, here I am with Lois, the first to come in an pick up a copy of Beyond the Night (in fact, she got more than one, and Veil of Fire too ... thanks, Lois!)

And here are a few others, including the fun gals who own The Carpenter . . .

What fun! Thanks, Ladies for coming in and buying books. Enjoy the read and bless you for your support!

After the signing, I had some time to talk with Bob Walch from The Californian (the newspaper here in Salinas) for a feature article he's writing up for the Living section (for you locals, keep your eyes out for that in the future!). One of the things he asked me about is what advice I would give to up and coming writers. Part of what I thought about and shared is applicable I think to whatever we do - not just writing, but our jobs, our dreams, everything that we give ourselves to do. And that is . . .

I believe that what we do, and what I do, shouldn't be all about pursuing my dreams, following my vision, accomplishing things for my own status. We are so often bombarded with that kind of goal-setting message in our culture: Follow your dreams, you can do anything you set your mind to ... all those success posters you see in business catalogs. But life isn't about that. What we do should be a gift to others. My reason for writing can't be to succeed in my dreams, but to offer something to others of quality, hope, and help. My books are an act of faithfulness to God that He may use to bring wonder and blessing into the lives of His loved ones (that's you!). And I think whatever we do (jobs, hobbies, etc.) should be that too ... ways we can show our love to God by offering something to others, by serving, by making lives a little brighter, a little more filled with hope, a little more connected to the God of the universe.

So, there's my little thought for the day, coming out of my time last night. So now, if there's a way your job, your hobby, or whatever other thing you're doing blesses others, or a way you hope it will, I hope you'll share your thoughts here. Comment away! I love hearing from you!

May your day be filled with wonder and your life be brimming with light!