Welcome to the blog of author Marlo Schalesky!

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

How To Pray Like a Two-Year-Old

Hi Friends,

So, Joelle turned 7 on Saturday - I can't believe how fast the years go! Bryan took her to Disneyland for her birthday. They had a great time (of course) and talked about "God stuff." I should have known, because God has always been one of Joelle's favorite topics. In fact, when she was two, she taught me how to pray.

Now, it’s not that I don’t know how to pray. I’ve been a praying Christian for years. I’ve read all the books, I’ve studied all the greats - Augustine, Brother Lawrence, and a dozen others. I’ve given talks and written seminary papers. I’ve fasted, and prayerwalked, and read the Lord’s Prayer in Greek. I’ve even written articles! And still, the best prayer lesson I've gotten came from my daughter when she was two years old.

It happened like this: The food steamed on the table. The silverware shone. Our older daughter, Bethany (then 5), squirmed in her seat. “Who’s gonna pray so we can eat?” She looked down at the spaghetti on her plate.

I opened my mouth to volunteer, but before I could say a word, a little voice piped up from beside me.

“Me do it. I pray.”

I glanced at our two-year-old daughter, Joelle. “Okay, you do it. You know what to do?”

She nodded.

She’d never prayed out loud for a meal before, but she had heard us pray hundreds of times. We always asked God to bless the food and thanked Him for it.

Joelle folded her hands as we all bowed our heads.

Then, we waited. And waited.

I peeked at her. “Go ahead, sweetie. Pray.”

She closed her eyes. Then, came her prayer, loud and clear over the table. “Jesus no cry. Jesus be happy. Amen.”

We all looked up.

Bethany frowned. “That’s a funny prayer. Can we eat now or not?”

I tapped her hand and shushed her. “It’s a great prayer. You can eat.”

Joelle stuffed her fork into her spaghetti and ignored her sister. “I pray,” she muttered.

I smiled as I contemplated her words. She prayed all right. A prayer no one had taught her, a prayer that came right from her heart, a prayer that put all my grown-up prayers to shame. In six simple words, Joelle had gotten to the heart of God-honoring prayer - not a rote repetition about the food, but a sincere desire for Jesus to be happy.

As I sat there twirling spaghetti on my fork, I thought about how my prayers compared with Joelle’s. Sure, I knew all the right phrases and all the how-to’s. Yet, as I contemplated her simple words, I saw how woefully self-centered my own prayers had become. I asked for blessings on my family, help with my work, wisdom in dealing with people, and that all would go well. Good things, surely, and things that God wants me to pray for. But it wasn’t enough. If I were to simplify my prayers down to Joelle’s language, I saw that they would sound more like “Marlo no cry. Marlo be happy.” Where Joelle prays for Jesus, I pray for me.

Jesus tells us in Matthew 6:10 (NIV) to pray, “your Kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” I’ve read those words so many times, but only through Joelle’s prayer have I seen their deeper meaning. When we spurn God’s will, Jesus weeps. When we do His will, Jesus is happy.

So, as I contemplate how to deepen my own prayer life, I'm remembering Joelle's lesson to me that instead of only asking for God’s blessing, I should to focus more on asking God to help me to be pleasing to Him. As I ask for His help in my work and writing, I want to also voice my desire for Him to help me to glorify Him in my life. When I ask for wisdom, I want to ask Him to help me honor Him in all I do and think. And instead of focusing on my desire for all to go well, maybe I’ll ask Him what I can do to bring Him joy.

In other words, I still need to learn to pray with childlike faith. To pray, “Jesus no cry. Jesus be happy.” I need to pray like a two-year-old.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Thoughts on Being the YOU God Made You to Be

Hi Friends,

The wildflowers are in bloom at last, which means Jayna's been picking loads of dandelions to give to me every time she plays outside.

I love that, because her little squished dandelions remind me of how God once used dandelions and daffodils to teach me to be who He created me to be. It happened like this:

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 for the church? How in the world did I ever let them talk me into this? 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 and not let myself or others try to make me feel I should be something I'm not. Too often we try force ourselves, or force others, into a mold that is not of God's making. Is every parent cut out for children's ministry? No. Is every pastor's wife made to sing? No (...and if you've ever heard me ... yikes!). Is every mother Martha Stewart? Not hardly. Should they be?

Maybe, instead of feeling guilt over not being someone else's ideal (or our own), the important thing is that each of us, like the dandelion, reflect the light of the Son who gave us life.

So, after I gathered a few more flowers, I 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, May 12, 2010

Banjo the Cat's Insights in Matthew 7:7

Hi Friends!

Sometimes, I just have the blahs. Sometimes it's just one of those days when things just keep going wrong, encouragment is scarce, obstacles loom, and I'm just not seeing the vision. Today is one of those days.

So, I sit in my office and look out the big, glass windows. Our cat, Banjo, spies me from outside, runs to hte screen door, and starts scratching. Big holes are in the screen from where he's done this before. I know what he's scratching about. The raccoons have gotten into his food again, and he needs a refill. So, I get up, refill his food, and he stops scratching and starts happily munching.

Then, I'm reminded of how we got our cat and what he's 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 nothing matters and there's little hope, 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.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Are You a Blogger? Blog Tour Invite for Shades of Morning



Shades of Morning by Marlo Schalesky

Hi! My name is Kelly Blewett, and I'm Marlo's publicist for her upcoming release Shades of Morning. Marlo and I are delighted to invite you to participate in her blog campaign for Shades of Morning (Multnomah Books).

The blog campaign will run July 12-16. Please post your comments during that week. As a participating blogger, you will receive a complimentary copy of the book and the opportunity to interview Marlo directly.

Please RSVP to this invitation by emailing me at kellyblewett@hotmail.com with the subject line “I’m in for Shades of Morning!” Only the first 15 respondents will be included in the tour.

Here’s the plot in a nutshell: Marnie doesn’t know much about miracles. Mistakes maybe. Accidents, too. And monstrous mess-ups. She knows a lot about those. But miracles? Those are for other people. But in Shades of Morning (Multnomah Books, on shelves June 15, 2010), Marnie is about to discover that God can turn a past full of regrets into a beautiful future.

Please include the following link with your review:. http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/1601420250

Happy blogging!
Kelly Blewett, Publicist

Tour Information

Book: Shades of Morning

Dates: July 12-16, 2010

Summary: Marnie Wittier has life just where she wants it. Quiet. Peaceful. No drama. A long way away from her past. In the privacy of her home, she fills a box with slips of paper, scribbled with her regrets, sins, and sorrows. But that’s nobody else’s business. Her bookstore/coffee shop patrons, her employees, her friends from church—they all think she’s the very model of compassion and kindness. Then Marnie’s past creeps into her present when her estranged sister dies and makes Marnie guardian of her fifteen-year-old son—a boy Marnie never knew existed.

And when Emmit arrives, she discovers he has Down syndrome—and that she’s woefully unprepared to care for him. What’s worse, she has to deal with Taylor Cole, her sister’s attorney, a man Marnie once loved—and abandoned. As Emmit (and Taylor) work their way into her heart, Marnie begins to heal. But when pieces of her dismal past surface again, she must at last face the scripts of paper in her box, all the regrets and sorrows. Can she do it? Or will she run again?

Author Bio: Marlo Schalesky is the author of several books, including Beyond the Night and Empty Womb, Aching Heart. A graduate of Stanford University, Marlo also has a masters of theology with an emphasis in biblical studies from Fuller Theological Seminary. Married over twenty years, she lives with her husband, Bryan, and their five children in California.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Almost Forever by Deb Raney

Hi Friends,

Got a new novel to tell you about this week. It's ALMOST FOREVER by my friend, Deb Raney. I hope you'll check it out!

Here's more info:

Almost Forever
by Deborah Raney
A Hanover Falls Novel
from Howard/Simon & Schuster

Unearthing a lost memory may cause her to lose everything she holds dear. but could it also set her free?

Volunteer Bryn Hennesey was there at the Grove Street Homeless Shelter the night five heroic firefighters died at the scene. Among them was her husband, Adam.

Now a terrifying absence of memory has her wondering if she might, in some way, be responsible. Garrett Edmonds' wife, Molly, was the only female firefighter to perish in the blaze. He was supposed to protect the woman he loved.now she's the one who's died a hero. How can he go on in the face of such unbearable loss? And what started the fire that destroyed the dreams and futures of so many? Investigators are stumped. But someone knows the answer...

Deborah Raney books always captivate me! Almost Forever is a beautifully written and enthralling read. It made my heart sing, dance, cry, and turn more than a few flips!
~CindyWoodsmall, New York Times best-selling author

As a fan of the very talented Deborah Raney, I expected a great read and I got it in the richly emotional Almost Forever, a story of faith, forgiveness and redemption. It began with a gripping scene and proceeded to hold me enthralled to the end. Don't miss this one!
~Karen Young, author of Missing Max and Blood Bayou

DEBORAH RANEY is at work on her 20th novel. Her books have won the RITA Award, HOLT Medallion, National Readers' Choice Award, Silver Angel, and have twice been Christy Award finalists. Her first novel, A Vow to Cherish, inspired the World Wide Pictures film of the same title. Almost Forever, first in her new Hanover Falls Novels series, will release in May from Howard/Simon & Schuster. Deb and her husband, Ken Raney, enjoy small-town life in Kansas. They are new empty nesters with four grown children and two precious grandsons, all of whom live much too far away.

Visit Deb on the web at www.deborahraney.com
Order her books here: http://snipurl.com/raneybooks

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Life Too Busy? Race You to the Rock!

Some weeks I think I'm the world expert on busy. I've got a PhD in too much to do, too little time, too much crazy. This is one of those weeks. Interviews are due, promo materials for Shades of Morning (going to be talking about regret vs. the transforming power of God -- way neato stuff!), four (count 'em, four) proposals for new novels, something like three articles to do, a mini-play, contest entries to judge, email to answer, and kids to take care of. Not to mention the other 90% of the items on the ever-increasing to-do list (I simply have to get THAT monster under control!!).

And in the midst of it all, there's my youngest - who turned 17 months old on Monday - with his arms raised to me saying "Ma ma ma ma." And truly, I can't resist. After all, he is the cutest thing ever. So, I stop, pick him up, and we dance a bit to the "Hee bloo bloo" song his sisters made up. We both laugh. Then, the phone rings, the laundry buzzer goes off, and my email makes that little sound saying there yet more of it in my box.

But baby boy gives me a head-butt anyway (which is his way of showing affection - like a hug, except in boy-language), and I'm reminded that life is more than to-do lists and deadlines. Life is not something to be accomplished. It is both God’s gift to us and ours to Him. So today, as I think about busyness and life, I’m remembering back to when I was a kid. I’m remembering the story of the rock. It goes like this:

“Race you to the rock!” my friend Lisa cried as she sprinted down the trail toward the stream at the lower end of our property.

I laughed and followed, my seven-year-old legs pumping like twin pistons over the dirt path before me. In minutes we reached the rock, a massive, gray boulder that stood like a giant castle over the stream’s edge.

Panting and giggling, we flung ourselves across the lichen-covered surface. I pressed my cheek into a rough spot on the rock and grinned. “You win.”

Lisa climbed to the top of the boulder and looked south. “Mr. Winters is picking persimmons today.”

I scrambled up next to her. “Hey, the Johnson’s cow finally had that calf.” I pointed toward a field to the west.

Then, Lisa and I settled back and gazed into the blue, afternoon sky. Later, we would play princesses-in-the-castle, pretend we were riding an elephant across the plains of Africa, or dangle our feet in the water and dream of what it would be like to be mermaids in the ocean. We could do anything, be anything, on the rock.

To the rest of the world, our rock may have seemed like an ordinary boulder, but to us, that stone was the center of the universe. From there, we could see the world. All things were possible. We were safe. We were free to dream. We were prone to laugh. From there, we tasted a bit of heaven.

Today, when I think about the image of God as the Rock (as in Psalm 18, 78, and 95), I often think of that boulder by the stream. I realize that when I am centered in Him, everything becomes clear – I can see my world. When I rest on Him, I need not be afraid. I can dangle my feet in the rough currents of life and not be swept away. I can dare to dream, hope, play. When He is the center of my life - the one I look to for security, the one I race to when I want to see the world around me as it really is, life can have the fullness God always intended, without the craziness that is not of Him.

But I remember something else about my special boulder. Something that even now makes me sad. For as I grew older, I visited the boulder less and less. Lisa and I raced to the mall instead of the rock. We jabbered on the phone instead of sharing dreams by the water. We did our homework, made our plans, and no longer had time to play. I forgot the feeling of warm stone on my back, of swishing my toes in the cold current.

The boulder was still there, still as majestic, still as strong. But I ignored it. I was too busy, too grown up, too involved with my own goals and plans. Spring came. The stream ran fast and cold, but I didn’t stop to dip my toes in the water. Summer followed, but I didn’t lie on the warm stone and contemplate the heavens. Autumn brought leaves of orange and gold, but no games of knights or safaris. In winter, the leaves dried and blew away, but I didn’t even notice that somehow, somewhere, I had lost something precious.

So this week, as my life is crowded with appointments, projects, deadlines, responsibilities, and piles of laundry that seem to never grow smaller, I’m remembering the boulder. And I can almost hear God whispering, “Do not tremble, do not be afraid. . . Is there any God besides me? No, there is no other Rock; I know not one." (Isaiah 44:8, NIV). It’s as if He’s saying to me, “Come and play, come and rest in me. Come and dance to the Hee-bloo-bloo song.” He’s calling me back to the center, back to the Rock of my salvation.

Then, I can remember the joy, the freedom, that can only be found on the Rock. I pray for God to be the center from which I live the rest of my life - my work, my family life, my hopes, dreams, and, yes, even my play. I pray that I can laugh and cry out, “Race you to the Rock!”