Welcome to the blog of author Marlo Schalesky!

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

What's a Balloon Have to Do with Psalm 23?

Hi Friends,

The answer? Everything! Most people have heard of Psalm 23 ("The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not want..."). At least one of my kids seems to be memorizing it in Awana every year. So recently, as I going over the psalm again, and studying it in Hebrew (how fun is that?!), I remembered a story from my childhood that shed some extra light on this famous Bible passage. It happened like this:

To my five-year-old eyes, it was a thing straight from heaven. Beautiful, wondrous, and all mine. I clutched the string in my hand and gazed at the shimmering pink balloon. It was the biggest one I’d ever had – fat with helium and formed in the shape of Mickey Mouse’s head. And best of all, inside was a second, smaller balloon of purple, my favorite color.

I tugged on the string and watched as the smaller balloon danced inside the big one.

A hand touched my shoulder.

I looked up into the face of my Grandma.

She smiled. “Don’t let go of the string, Marlo. You don’t want to lose it. We can’t get another one.”

I nodded and rubbed my thumb over my wrist where the string made a loose loop.

For thirty whole minutes that wonderful balloon bobbed over my head. It followed me to the merry-go-round, to the bathroom, to the lunch line. It watched me eat my hot dog, carefully with one hand on the bun and the other on the string.

Then, the unthinkable happened. I was running to see a group of swans swimming across the pond. My hand loosened. The string slipped. The loop around my wrist came undone.

And the balloon was gone.

Breath snatched from my chest as I watched it rushed toward the sky. Further, further. And then it vanished from my sight. My face twisted in a sob. Tears blurred my eyes. “Nooo . . . come back.”

Grandma’s hand again touched my shoulder.

My lips quivered as I spoke. “Bring it back, Grandma. Please.”

She drew me close. “I’m sorry, sweetheart. We can’t get it back.”

There was something so final, so awful, so heartbreaking about those words that they have stayed in my memory all these years later. Even now, I can’t forget that day, nor how it felt to know that my beautiful balloon was gone forever.

That image was renewed for me again not too long ago as I sat in my Hebrew class and listened to the professor talk about Psalm 23. I fiddled with my pencil, half-listening. After all, what could be new about Psalm 23? I’d read it hundreds of times, not only in my Bible, but on plaques and cards and calendars and a dozen other trinkets meant to sooth and comfort.

The professor came to verse 3. I glanced at it in the Hebrew, and then in the English of my NIV translation. He restores my soul.

“Look closely at the form of the verb there,” the professor said.

I looked.

“You see how it really means that he brings back my soul.”

So what? I doodled on the edge of my notes and yawned.

The professor paused. Then, he told a story. He told about a day when his son lost a balloon.

I stopped doodling.

He told about the look on the boy’s face. About how the balloon floated up and up and up in the air and no one could bring it back.

I stopped yawning.

He said the verse again. “He brings back my soul.”

I stopped fiddling with my pencil.

He wrote the verb on the board.

And in that moment, I grasped anew the wonder of Psalm 23. We have lost our souls, to sin, to brokenness, to hurt and pain. We have lost something more precious even than a fat Mickey Mouse balloon. And there’s nothing we can do to get it back.

But God does the impossible. He brings back the balloon. What this world robs, he restores in His love. Who I really am inside, who he created me to be, he brings that back.

I have been hurt. I have chosen poorly. I have sinned. I have slipped away and flown into the sky.

But that is not the end of the story. I am not lost forever in the clouds. God restores my soul. He restores my hope. He brings me back to the place I really belong, to the hand of the One who loves me.

And now, forever, I need no longer to fear. No matter how far off I've flown.

Calculated Revenge by Jill Elizabeth Nelson

Hi Friends,

The new novel I want to tell you about this week is Calculated Revenge by Jill Elizabeth Nelson (Steeple Hill Romantic Suspense
(c) 2010). Here's a bit about it:


It’s been eighteen years since Laney Thompson’s sister was abducted and killed, but the pain Laney feels has never faded. And now the murderer is back, taunting Laney with mementos of her sister and threatening Laney’s young daughter. School principal Noah Ryder is her best hope for protecting her daughter—if she can convince the former investigator to take the case. As the threats accelerate, a string of clues leads Laney to uncover old secrets. Unless Noah steps in with his expertise, how can she piece together the puzzle before her child—like her sister—is lost to a killer’s revenge?


Jill Elizabeth Nelson is an award-winning author of mystery and suspense. She writes what she likes to read—tales of adventure seasoned with romance, humor, and faith, earning her the tagline: Endless Adventure, Timeless Truth. Jill speaks at conferences, writer’s groups, library associations, and civic and church groups. She and her husband live in rural Minnesota where they raised four children and are currently enjoying their first grandchild.

Visit Jill Elizabeth Nelson’s website at http://www.jillelizabethnelson.com for excerpts, book giveaways, and contests.

You can order this book directly from your local bookstore, retail stores such as Walmart, or online here: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0373443900/jillelizabeth-20

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Life Not Going As Planned? Read This!

Hi Friends!

We're talking about life not going as planned on my Facebook author page (find it here: http://bit.ly/cBWS51), and I thought I'd share some thoughts here on my blog as well.

So, is your life going just as you hoped and planned? No? Well, me neither. In fact, when people ask me for a sentence that defines my life I tell them it's this: "Your plans? Ha ha!" says God.

But I also find that I'm in good company. In fact, I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the life of Mary, the mother of Jesus. If there's anyone whose life was the opposite of her hopes and plans, it was hers. Yet, I also think about the wonder she witnessed. Both wonder and disappointment. Beauty and sorrow. She touched it. Lived it. Embodied the journey of us all.

There she was, engaged, planning on a nice, quiet, happy life. And boom, an angel appears. Forget your plans, he says, God’s got different ones. You’re having a baby, and it's not gonna be your husband’s. You get to have God’s son. I suspect being unwed and pregnant was soooo not part of her plans!

But Mary reacts pretty well to the change of her plans. “I’m God’s servant,” she says. And then we get her whole prayer praising God in Luke 1:46-55 that we like to read at Christmas time.

But it doesn't stop there. She’s coming up on 9 months pregnant and what should happen but a decree – she has to go to Bethlehem. A long trip on the back of a donkey. I’ve been 9 months pregnant, so I can you tell you that there’s no way that a trip like that was a part of Mary’s plans. Couldn't God make it a little easier? Couldn't He intervene?

No. And worse yet, when they get to Bethlehem, they can’t even get a room. (Side note: We always translate the Greek word as “inn” in our English versions of the Bible, as if there’s some sort of Motel 6 there in Bethlehem. But that word is usually used for a guest room in a relative’s house. So, it could be that Joseph went to his relative’s house there in Bethlehem and found that other relatives were there first and had taken up all the space. I wonder if it was because they had to travel slowly because of Mary’s condition that there was no place for them once they got there?) I also wonder if they were thinking that surely God would provide a room for them, a nice place to have that baby that was supposed to be God’s son. But no. A stable. And not one of those cute, clean little “stables” like we have in our nativities at Christmas. Think poop, flies, and stink.

Eventually, the magi come. Now, that’s more like it. Gold. Frankincense . Myrrh. Gifts fit for a king. At last! Except that no sooner do they leave than the soldiers come. And they aren't bearing gifts. They're bearing swords, ready to kill all the baby boys. Talk about a nightmare. And Mary and Joseph have to run off to Egypt, a foreign country, where they’re all alone. Mary's hopes, Mary's plans, ruined again.

In time, they come back to Israel, and we get one story in the Bible about Jesus as a youth. One single story. And what’s he doing? Yep, giving his mom grief. At twelve, he stays behind in Jerusalem, and gives his mom the scare of her life. That sure wasn’t a dream come true for her. If you've lost a kid in a store, you can get a taste of the panic Mary must have been feeling.

And if that’s not enough, her son grows up. Now, if I were the mom of God’s son, I’d be dreaming of some big stuff. In fact, you can see some of Mary’s plans in her original prayer –
--bringing down rulers, maybe she’s thinking of Rome,
--helping the humble,
--bringing abundance, food, to the hungry,
--bringing glory to Israel like they once had.

But instead, her son is wandering arouind homeless riling everybody up. So much so that she and some of Jesus’ brothers have to go to talk some sense into him. And when she gets there, does Jesus say, “Mom, great to see you! Come on in, sit by me.”?? Noooo. He says, “Who are mother and my brothers… These are my mother and my brothers,” as he points to other people around him – not to her. Jesus’ public ministry certainly wasn’t Mary’s dream come true.

And then, of course, comes the worst of all. Can you imagine it? Watching your first born son arrested, beaten, spat upon, and then nailed to a cross to die. Because where was Mary then? She was at the foot of the cross. Can you imagine standing there as the blood drips, and his anguished cries echo in your ears. Your son. The son you love. I can imagine nothing worse. Nothing more gut-wrenching and horrific. That was never, ever, ever in Mary’s plans. That was the greatest nightmare come true of all time.

AND YET… and here’s the most marvelous point of all. It is in that horrific moment, in that moment that encapsulates the very epitome of what it means for plans and hopes to go awry, to die – in that moment we find the most incredible, wondrous, breathtaking act of God of all time. It is the moment of redemption, of glory, of splendor, of the answer to all the prayers and hopes from the beginning of time until now. It is at that moment that we find the salvation of all mankind.

There, at the precise moment when all Mary’s hopes died. When all her plans came to nothing. That was the moment of answer. That was when truly the poor were provided for, a ruler of evil was overthrown, and mercy was given, just as she prayed all those years before. It was the moment of glory.

I think it may always be that way. That there, at the very place where our dreams don’t come true, where our expectations are shattered – that is where God is standing in the greatest power. Those are the moments, the places that change the world, where we find a depth and wonder deeper than we ever dared to dream.

Because, this I know for certain: the life God gives you is not the life you dreamed. It is the Kingdom of Heaven lived through you. It is wondrous. It is incredible. It is unexpected. And it is found at the foot of the cross.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Because God Wants More Than to Heal You

Hi Friends!

This morning (before running off to do a little homeschool for the twins, laundry, diaper changing, exercise, and kitchen clean-up - ack!) I was thinking about the story of the bleeding woman starting in MARK 5:25. Here's my retelling of the story along with what struck me at a deeper level. Today, I'm going to be thinking about this, and I'd love to hear your thoughts too! Care to share??

Anyway, here are my thoughts about Mark 5:25-34:

Once upon a time, there was a woman who was having that time of month. Except for her, it didn’t stop after a week, or two weeks, a month, a year. She’d been bleeding for twelve long years. And where she lived, that bleeding wasn’t only unpleasant and exhausting, it made her dirty, untouchable. She used to have friends, but they’re all married now, with children. She has no husband, no kids. Others have a nice home and a family. She’s spent all her money on doctors and treatments that didn’t help. Everything she once hoped for seems impossible now. And she’s so tired from the loss of blood, the loss of hope, the loss of everything.

But then, something happens. She hears about a man who can heal with a touch. It seems crazy. But maybe, just maybe . . . there’s a commotion on the street. A crowd. A name. Jesus. The one from Nazareth. He’s the one she heard about! She sneaks out the door, follows behind the crowd. Far enough back so she won’t touch anyone, won’t make them unclean too.

But she’s got to get to the one called Jesus. Maybe he won’t touch someone dirty like her. But maybe she can touch him. Just a little, on the edge of his cloak. Maybe that’s all it would take. She winds through the crowd, inching forward. Bit by bit. There he is! Closer. Closer. All she wants in the world is to be healed. For the bleeding to stop. For life to have some hope again. If only she could be healed.

She reaches out. Her fingers brush the edge of his cloak. And… it happens. She feels it, senses it, in every part of her. The bleeding stops. The anemia is gone. She’s whole, healthy, clean. She sinks back into the crowd. She has everything she wanted.

But wait.

Jesus stops. Turns. Seeks her out. He looks at her, talks to her, calls her “daughter.”

Why? Why does he have to stop her? She already has everything she came for. She’s healed.

--For her, healing is enough.
--But for him, he wants more.

HE WANTS MORE THAN OUR HEALING. That's the idea that I find striking. Because for her, and for you and me, FIXING us isn’t enough. God wants relationship. Jesus wants connection, interaction…that’s love. That’s what’s valuable to Him.

And I think that’s the lens through which we need to see everything in our lives. What happens in our lives isn’t about getting us to do the right thing, choose the right path, get our problems fixed. It’s about God and His love relationship with us. It’s about Him wanting to be close to us because He loves us. It's about knowing Him. Everything is about knowing Him.

When something goes wrong, when something goes right, when the kids are good, when they're um ... not. When my daughter's horse dies, when a friend hurts me, when I get my royalty statement (oh yikes! ;-)), when I just don't understand WHY. I do know why -- so I can know Him better, see Him more clearly, interact with God how He really is, not just as who I imagine Him to be.

I think that's what it's all about. What do you think?

Friday, April 9, 2010

Deeper Living for Everyday People -- JOIN ME!

Hi Friends!

As I'm launching my brand-new FACEBOOK PAGE (www.facebook.com/MarloSchalesky) today, I wanted to let you know what I'm hoping that page (and this blog too) will be all about, what I'm hoping we'll spend our time talking about, and mostly how these gathering places can have a unique purpose and meaning in your life and your own walk with God.

The other day I was thinking about this idea of THE DEEPER LIFE. After all, I don't want to be shallow. Who does?! I want to see God more vividly, experience Him more fully, view my life and others as He does. I want richness, depth, insight, wisdom, and a walk that changes me into the person He created me to be. I want to live a life of wonder at his beauty.

But in real life, there are dirty diapers, cars that break down, too long to-do lists, laundry, screaming kids, work trouble, health trouble, family trouble, friend trouble, and a million other things that push and pull, mold and shape. It's not all beauty and walks across the sand and watching sunsets. Life is messy.

So depth, I think, needs to be like those old tennis shoes you wear around every day, the ones that are comfortable, conform to your feet, are uniquely yours. The shoes you grab first and don't want to take off. Depth can't be the fancy, stiff shoes you pull out for weddings and funerals - the ones that look good but you hate to actually wear 'em.

And that means that a deep life with God has to be possible for us "regular folks," not just for monks, nuns, esoteric types, and the mystics who have been dead for centuries. After all, most of us aren't monks, nuns, or dead guys. We're just regular, everyday people who want to go deeper.

So, what do you say? Shall we dive into the depths of God together ... in our everyday lives ... lives that have pain, disappointments, and difficulties, but also have fun, humor, and irony? Lives that are real ... where God is real, where He becomes vivid, where all things (dark, bright, heavy, light) are tools to help us grow deeper.

If that's what you're looking for, then this blog and the new Facebook page is the place for you. Feel free to comment, wrestle, muse, ask questions, suggest topics, and be yourself. You're welcomed!

And in the meantime, invite others to join you and become a part of the page and our journey together. All are welcome, whether you've been walking with God for 50 years, or you're just curious about what deeper living might mean for you.

All you need is a desire to grow deeper ... in everyday life. Let's walk together . . .

FIND MY NEW FACEBOOK PAGE AT: www.facebook.com/MarloSchalesky
YOU CAN ALSO FOLLOW ME ON TWITTER where I'll be talking (in very short bursts ;-)!) about this same topic: http://twitter.com/MarloSchalesky

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Gossip Extinguishers - Tips on Facing Gossip in a Godly Way

Hi Friends,

I've been talking to Bethany about girl-gossip among her friends and how to keep from joining in when the gossip starts. As we were talking, I was reminded of some tips that I've learned on how to deal with gossip well. They were helpful to us, so I thought I'd share them with you all too because gossip-y stuff happens all too often.

"Do you know what Becky did now?" someone starts. "I can't stand the way Rachel comes in here acting like that," another says. "Mark is really starting to get on my nerves. Did you hear what he said to me last week?" The fire of gossip. It starts with a little spark, but it can turn into a destructive blaze.
Someone has said that we all go around with two hypothetical buckets. The first is filled with gasoline, and the other with water. When gossip starts, which bucket will we throw at the fire? Will we overturn our bucket of gasoline, making the situation worse? Or will we squelch the fire with our bucket of water?

These are the tips I suggest for dousing the fire with the water of wisdom:

1) Respond with a positive comment. Point out a good trait about the person. Say, "That could be true, but what I really like about Becky is..."

2) Show sincere concern for the person being talked about. Demonstrate that the proper response to someone who may be stumbling is to love and support them. Say something like, "Rachel must be struggling with something right now. I need to be praying for her."

3) Point toward resolution by saying something like, "Have you talked to Mark about that? I'm sure he wouldn't want you feeling that way."

4) If none of those responses work, try to disagree politely and turn away. For example, "Hmm, I guess I've never noticed that about him. I've always found him rather considerate."

5) Lastly, gently guide the gossiper away from complaining and toward helping. You can say something like, "How nice that you're concerned about Becky. Perhaps she has a need that you and I can meet. How do you think we can help her?"

Bethany and I decided that by keeping an attitude of love and servanthood, we can throw water onto the complaints of others, and so save one another from being burned up by the fire of gossip. Now, we'll see how well it works in the everyday world of 4th grade girlhood!

Monday, April 5, 2010

This Little Prayer of Mine by Anthony DeStefano

Hi Friends,

This week I wanted to tell you about a new children's book that my kids and I are enjoying. It has a great rhyme, is easy to read, and has a fantastic message about prayers and God's love.

It's THIS LITTLE PRAYER OF MINE by Anythony DeStefano.

And here's more about it:

Author Anthony DeStefano’s adult books, The Prayers God Always Says Yes To and A Travel Guide to Heaven, have sold a quarter-million copies. Illustrator Mark Elliott’s cherished artwork has appeared in popular picture books and novels for young readers, including Gail Carson Levine’s ever-popular Princess Tales series.

Now, these acclaimed inspirational experts have come together to create This Little Prayer of Mine, a beautiful and alluring book designed to guide children into a very simple, real and expressive relationship with God.

Through engaging rhymes and alluring illustrations, This Little Prayer of Mine shows children—and their parents and grandparents—that complete dependence on God is what brings peace and fulfillment. It invites children to know and believe that God is always just a simple prayer away and that He longs to respond to them with a resounding, “Yes!”

This Little Prayer of Mine appeals to readers from all different faiths. Easy-reader format allows children to read alone, or with someone older, and encourages them to openly express their fears, thanks, and needs directly to God.

Author Bio:
Anthony DeStefano is the author of The Prayers God Always Says Yes To and A Travel Guide to Heaven. He has received prestigious awards from religious organizations worldwide for his efforts to advance Christian beliefs in modern culture.

Mark Elliott’s brilliant illustrations have appeared in popular picture books and novels for young readers, including Gail Carson Levine’s Princess Tales series. His acclaimed artwork delivers inspiration, wonder, and timeless beauty on every page.

For more info and purchasing options, check it out here: http://www.randomhouse.com/catalog/display.pperl?isbn=9780307458049&ref=externallink_wbp_thislittleprayerofmine_sec_0223_01

This book was provided for review by the WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group.