Welcome to the blog of author Marlo Schalesky!

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Is Chocolate Bad for Easter?

Hi Friends!

Well, I'm back from Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference, where I had a wonderful time and met a number of new friends (yay!). Here's a picture of me at the conference on one of the days when it was sunny and beautiful.

While I was there, I thought of some new ideas for my blog here -- ways to serve you, my readers, better. So, be on the lookout in the next couple weeks for the unveiling of the new direction. Should be exciting!

Also, I have a new Facebook fan page which you can find at: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Marlo-Schalesky/103475746357601?v=app_389355083668

We're going to be doing a lot of great stuff there (more on that in the days/weeks to come!), so get signed up!

Meanwhile, on the question of CHOCOLATE and EASTER ... here's a little story of something that happened a couple years ago ... read it, then decide the place you think chocolate has in the celebration of Jesus' resurrection. Then comment! I'd love to hear your thoughts!

Easter Sunday 2007. It happened like this:

Trumped. By chocolate.

I had worked all week with my almost-four-year-old, Joelle, on the meaning of Easter. We’d made little paper Jesus figures and pinned them to the cross. We’d washed feet, made pretend alabaster jars of paper and sprayed them with perfume for Jesus’ head. We’d put Jesus on a paper donkey and made palm branches, then placed him in a garden made with flowers from the yard. And on Friday, we’d taken Jesus from the cross, wrapped him in fabric, and placed him in the tomb, a box with a rock on top.

Now it was Sunday morning. We raced to the tomb and found the stone rolled away. Joelle opened her box and saw the fabric. But Jesus was gone. He was risen. We cheered and laughed and clapped our hands. We hollered, “He is risen!”

Then, we hunted for Easter baskets.

That was my undoing. Joelle found her basket, and the chocolate in it. “Chocolate!” she shrieked.

I picked up the basket and set it on the counter. “We’ll have that after lunch, okay?”

She nodded.

“Now, let’s get ready for church.”

She cast one last, longing glance at the candy, then tromped upstairs.

In fifteen minutes, we had dressed in our fancy Easter dresses and hurried off to church. We weren’t there for two minutes when the moment arrived. I held my breath as Pastor Mark walked up and leaned over the row of seats in front of us. He looked at Joelle and smiled. “So, can you tell me what Easter’s all about?”

My chest puffed. Surely Joelle would know the answer to that! After all, we had a whole week of activities behind us. Jesus is risen. I rehearsed the words in my mind, willing her to say them.

She lifted her chin.

I smiled.

Joelle smiled. And then she told Pastor Mark the meaning of Easter, in single word: “Chocolate!”

My face fell.

My husband snickered.

Mark laughed.

I groaned.

Chocolate. I’d been beaten by a handful of candy. Somehow, a few chocolates in the bottom of a basket overwhelmed a whole week of stories and crafts and activities. But then, I should have known. Joelle loves chocolate. She always has. To her, it’s the best thing in the world.
Music started at the front of the church. Joelle settled into her seat. A minute later, Grandpa arrived and sat next to us. Joelle sidled over to him.

He gave her a hug and whispered, “Happy Easter.”

And then, something amazing happened. Joelle told Grandpa the story of Easter – all of it, about Jesus and the perfume, Jesus on the cross, Jesus risen from the tomb, Jesus alive forever and in our hearts.

My husband looked over at me and winked.

I shook my head. Joelle did know what Easter was all about. Jesus, and chocolate. Both made her happy.

I glanced over at her grinning face. Then, I realized the truth. To her, there was no profound difference between the secular and the holy. To her, everything good was holy, even chocolate. Especially chocolate. Jesus being alive was good and wonderful. Chocolate was good and wonderful. So what better way to celebrate the ultimate gift of Christ’s resurrection than with the best thing we have – chocolate.

Joelle understood that. And maybe she was right. Maybe the separation between God-things and regular-life-stuff wasn’t as wide as I’d thought. After all, Scripture says, “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights…” (James 1:17, NIV). Every good gift. Life . . . and chocolate.

I smiled and rose to my feet and the first song began. Today, I would thank God for Jesus, and for every good gift that I could enjoy because of him, because he rose on the third day. I would thank him for salvation, for freedom, for life and love. I would even thank him for chocolate.

Sons of Thunder by Susan May Warren

Hi Friends,

Here's the book I have to tell you about this week: SONS OF THUNDER by Susan May Warren. Sorry this is a little late in the week. Just got back from Mount Hermon (which was wonderful!) and am still unpacking and getting back into the swing of things. So, here's this week's book:

About the book:
Sophie Frangos is torn between the love of two men and the promise that binds them all together. Markos Stavros loves Sophie from afar while battling his thirst for vengeance and his hunger for honor. Dino, his quiet and intelligent brother, simply wants to forget the horror that drove them from their Greek island home to start a new life in America. One of these “sons of thunder” offers a future she longs for, the other—the past she lost.

From the sultry Chicago jazz clubs of the roaring twenties to the World War II battlefields of Europe to a final showdown in a Greek island village, they’ll discover betrayal, sacrifice, and finally redemption. Most of all, when Sophie is forced to make her choice, she’ll learn that God honors the promises made by the Sons of Thunder.

Read and excerpt here:

About Susan:
Susan May Warren is the RITA award-winning author of twenty-four novels with Tyndale, Barbour and Steeple Hill. A four-time Christy award finalist, a two-time RITA Finalist, she’s also a multi-winner of the Inspirational Readers Choice award, and the ACFW Book of the Year.

Susan's larger than life characters and layered plots have won her acclaim with readers and reviewers alike. A seasoned women’s events and retreats speaker, she’s a popular writing teacher at conferences around the nation and the author of the beginning writer’s workbook: From the Inside-Out: discover, create and publish the novel in you!. She is also the founder of www.MyBookTherapy.com , a story-crafting service that helps authors discover their voice.

Susan makes her home in northern Minnesota, where she is busy cheering on her two sons in football, and her daughter in local theater productions (and desperately missing her college-age son!) A full listing of her titles, reviews and awards can be found at: www.susanmaywarren.com . Connect with Susan on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/SusanMayWarrenFiction

Buy the book here:

Enter Susan’s Memory Prize Pack contest:
Each one of us has a wealth of stories from the past – while they might not all be as sweeping and dramatic as that of Sofia and the Stravos brothers (swoon), your family history is a treasure nonetheless.

Well – let’s hear them! Were your great-grandparents ‘fresh off the boat’? Was your great uncle a war hero? Did your grandmother make unbelievable sacrifices to help or protect the family? Did your father harbor a family secret until his death? Are you related to someone famous (my assistant is related to presidents Harrison and Jackson – wow! Who knew?) Do you have a family treasure? Maybe you just have some lovely memories. Whatever it is that is unique in your family history – share it with us.

Have a photo to go with your story? Even better!!!! Email those to amy@susanmaywarren.com !

One grand prize winner will win a Memory Prize package containing a gift certificate to create your own hard cover photo book, a 6 month membership to Netflix (to satisfy that flick fix!) and a signed copy of Sons of Thunder! 5 runners up will also win signed copies of Sons of Thunder! Contest ends March 31st. Winners will be announced April 2nd.


Wednesday, March 24, 2010

What Easter Means to Me by Joelle

Hi Friends,

This week, in the rush of me getting ready to go to Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference, Joelle came home from school with an assignment -- to write an essay on what Easter means to her. So yesterday, we sat down and she wrote her essay. I was so touched by it, and I thought you would enjoy it too.

So, as you prepare your heart and mind for Easter over the coming week and a half, here's what one 6-year-old had to say about Easter:


by Joelle Schalesky

Easter is a very important holiday to me because it’s when I celebrate when Jesus rose from the dead. I like Easter because it’s about God.

A long time ago, Jesus went to the cross and died for our sins. They put him in a tomb, which was like a cave, and rolled a big rock in front of the hole so no one would take his body. Then, they put Roman guards in front of the rock to make sure nobody would steal Jesus’ body. One day passed. Two days passed. Then, very early on the morning of the third day, the ground shook, and the big stone rolled away.

Some women came to the tomb and saw the stone rolled away. They thought someone took the body, but when they went inside they saw an angel. The angel said to them, “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here! He is risen!”

Later, Mary was crying in the garden. A man came up to her. She thought he was the gardener, but then he said, “Mary!” She looked up and saw it was Jesus. Jesus was alive again!

After that, Jesus was seen alive by lots of people. Thomas even put his fingers in the holes in Jesus’ hands and side. Jesus still had the holes from when they nailed him to the cross and stuck a spear in his side.

Because Jesus rose from the dead, we don’t have to be afraid of death anymore. We can go to heaven. I can see my horse, Oreo, again because Jesus beat death for all of us, even animals.
So, I love Easter because I love to celebrate how Jesus rose again and beat death for me and everyone. Easter is a wonderful holiday!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Decisions, Decisions ... Thoughts on Making Good Ones

Hi Friends,

Decisions, decisions ... what's the right one to make? Which is the right way to go? Should you do this or that? These days, as I'm considering the direction my writing should take next, I've been thinking about what factors make for good decisions and what makes not-so-good ones. And as I've been pondering, I came across some thoughts that I'd jotted down from a couple years ago about bad decision makers and good decision makers.

So, I thought I'd share those thoughts in case there might be somthing helpful to you too. So, here ya go:

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!

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Why I Want to Be Like Dust . . .

Hi Friends,

So, I'm sitting staring at my little "News Feed" box on my Facebook page, and I can't even figure out anything to say. I want to write, "I'm tired. I quit." But I don't. Because I can't quit. I've got a lot of critters who depend on me ... the human kind as well as the animal kind. So, I gotta stay in the daily game. You know, changing those diapers, cleaning the kitchen, laundry, dishes, pick up toys, take Jayna's temperature again (because she's got a fever - why can't everyone just be WELL for awhile??), vaccuuming, homeschooling, and of course ... dusting.

It's the dusting that made me remember an analogy I used in my very first novel, Cry Freedom. That analogy spoke to me again today, so I thought I'd share it here. It came from a story from my own life that happened like this:

Twilight tossed its gray mantle across the sky and into my newly dusted living room. Shadows crept over the floor, darted into corners, and settled in my mind. Weariness whispered through me. Why did I have to clean, and scrub, and do all this work anyway? I wanted to read a good book, watch a movie, anything else but clean the living room for the Bible study group that would meet there that night. Why did I always have to be the one who did the work?

I threw my cleaning rag onto the coffee table and melted into the recliner. In a moment, the oven timer would buzz, and I would have to leap up and finish preparing the cake for the night’s study snack. Why couldn’t I just be free, free to spend my evening however I wanted? Free to do as I pleased?

A butterfly flitted outside the window. I watched it fly high, then low, before it paused on the rosebush just outside the pane. Eggshell wings fluttered in slow motion. Up and down. Up and down. Then, the creature dropped from the branch and flew into the sky. I followed it with my eyes until it became only a black speck against the clouds. Then, it disappeared.

“Make me like the butterfly, Lord,” I whispered. “I want to be free to fly into the sky, rest on the roses, and drink in the beauty of your creation.” I leaned back my head and stared up at the window that shone from our second story. “Lord, give me wings.”

I waited. And sighed. And shifted in the chair. But I felt just as tired, just as earthbound as ever.

Then, something happened. A shaft of light, as bright as a blade, sliced through the upstairs window and illuminated a path the floor. And in the light, I saw them – a hundred, a thousand tiny motes of dust. They drifted in the light like bright bits of glimmering gold.

I grabbed my dust rag, and started to stand. But then, I sat back again. I had worked for hours to eradicate the dark bits of dust that marred my furniture, countertops, and television screen. But this dust was different. These tiny motes weren’t dark, weren’t dirty, or ugly. They were beautiful, shining like miniscule stars in the last rays of day.

I dropped my rag, settled back into the chair, and wondered at the splendor of the dust. How could something that was no more than dirt be so beautiful? After all, it was only dust. I watched a few motes drift lower, out of the shaft of light. They turned gray again, just ugly little specks that floated onto an end table. Only in the light were they lovely. Only there did they shimmer like jewels.

As I sat and pondered the secret of the dust, I remembered a verse from the Psalms: “As a father has compassion on his children, so the LORD has compassion on those who fear him; for he knows how we are formed, he remembers that we are dust.” (Psalm 103:13-14, NIV).

I am dust, I thought. Not some winged butterfly, not a creature that flies wherever it pleases, but dust. Dirty, ugly dust. But in God’s light, I too am transformed. “I am the light of the world,” Jesus said in John 8:12 (NIV). And like the dust, I am only beautiful when I am aloft by his power, illuminated by his love.

As pretty as the butterfly was, the dust that glimmered like sparkling gold was much more beautiful. It stayed, it shone, and as long as it remained in the light, it was stunning.

I had prayed for the ability to order my day as I pleased. But, God offers a freedom that’s more incredible, more real, and more wondrous.

In his light is the freedom to rest in his grace and love. That is the mystery, and the wonder, of true freedom. So now, I'm no longer praying for wings like the butterfly. Instead, I'm praying to stay within the light.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Once in a Blue Moon by Leanna Ellis

Hi Friends,

Here's the new book I have to tell you about this week. Looks like a fun one! Here's the scoop on it:

Once in a Blue Moon
by Leanna Ellis
ISBN: 978-0-8054-4988-4
B&H Publishing

A Bit About it:
Faith is the first step to soaring. The day Armstrong stepped on the moon has special memories for most Americans, but not for Bryn Seymour. It’s the day her mother died. Despite death defying feats, guilt has always pulled Bryn down time and again. But a perfect love shows her taking a leap of faith is the first step to soaring. But it only happens … once in a blue moon.

About the author:
‘Leanna Ellis takes a back seat to no one,’ says Debbie Macomber. But Leanna hopes she allows God in the driver’s seat as she taxies her two children to and from all their activities, lets her menagerie of pets in and out … in and out ..., figures out what to cook for dinner (or where to order takeout), and at the same time keeps those quirky characters in her head from bothering others. Winner of the National Readers Choice Award, Leanna writes quirky women’s fiction with a splash of romance. From a long line of southerners and patriots, she lives with her family in Texas.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Is That You, God? Thoughts on Discerning God's Voice

Hi Friends,

A couple days ago I received a letter from a reader about an article I'd written years ago. Out of that article, my reader friend asked me some questions on discerning God's voice and how, after a bad experience, we can trust we are hearing from God and not just ourselves or the evil one. It was a great question. And these questions about hearing God are ones that I've given a lot of thought to over the past years. So, I wrote back to her with some ideas that I thought might be helpful to you all as well, and to me as I attempt to gain wisdom about a new direction in my writing (just found out yesterday that my current publisher is not planning on doing more books with me after the release of Shades of Morning in June - ack, what's next for me???). So, I am now taking my own advice!

Anyway, here are some of my thoughts on hearing from God:

The first thing I've come to realize, and it's taken me years to see this, is that just because I go through something awful doesn't mean that I didn't hear God when I decided to embark on that path. Sometimes, his warning is a quiet one and he allows me to proceed into something unwise because he knows that in healing from that experience, he can make me wise. He plans to weave that experience into the fabric of who I am to make me more like Christ. Bad experiences can become real wisdom-builders for us, so it's possible that God just allowed us to go on the difficult path so he can bring us out into a new, wiser place. (see Romans 8:28 -- not everything is good, but everything can work together for good to those who are loving him and are called to His purpose).

Which brings me to the second thing I've come to believe, which is: It's better to seek wisdom than guidance. (This is my latest personal proverb!!) Not that seeking guidance is wrong, but just that wisdom is ever better. So, I've noticed that my prayers have shifted more away from "should I do A or B" types of prayers (though I still come to God with those questions too) and more toward "Help me to grow in wisdom so I will understand if I should do A or B." This whole idea of seeking wisdom (like Solomon did) has been really helpful to me, and it seems to be a prayer that pleases God. I think it's teaching me that God is more interested in who I am rather than what I do. My experience has taught me that he is very committed to making me into the person he envisions me to be.

Then, I've also been thinking about what's my job and what's God's job, and I've come to believe that it's my job to seek God with all my heart and seek to be wise. That's it. I just need to be faithful in those areas. It's his job to make himself clear to me. And I need to trust him to do that. I can't be worried about whose voice I'm hearing. That distracts me from growing and trusting. So, whenever I find myself concerned with whether I'm hearing God, myself, or the devil, I'm deciding to go to God and basically say something like, "Look, I really want to be wise about this. I'm seeking You, I want to be in line with You, please give me the wisdom I need, and help me to grow in Your wisdom. I'm committing this issue to You." Then I go forward in whatever wisdom is given, trusting that it's God's job to make himself as clear as necessary and to give the wisdom promised in James 1. Sometimes that will take a little time because God needs to bring additional information to me or show me something about what it is that I'm questioning him about. So, I try to watch and discern, and gain his perspective.

So, all that to say, I've stopped worrying about not hearing God correctly. Instead, I'm choosing to focus on just seeking Him and asking for wisdom, asking to grow in wisdom. The more I trust and put fear aside, the more confident I am in the wisdom he gives and the ways he's growing me to be more like him.

And finally, I've discovered that his love for me is so great that he will not only transform the difficult experiences into something useful, but he will also grow me so I can be closer to him.

So, as you all seek to follow Him, mull over my little proverb: It's better to seek wisdom than guidance. So, may you seek his wisdom in all you do, may you grow in him, and may you trust him to give you the wisdom you need.

Blessings and wisdom to you, my friends!!