Welcome to the blog of author Marlo Schalesky!

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

From This Day Forward by Margaret Daley

Hi Friends,

Here's the new book I have to tell you about this week:

From This Day Forward
By Margaret Daley

Rachel Gordon is stranded in South Carolina, pregnant, a recent widow when her husband fell overboard on the voyage to America. Nathan Stuart, a physician who came home from serving in the American army during the War of 1812, disenchanted with his life and the Lord, rescues Rachel and saves her life. Feeling responsible for her, Nathan tries to discourage her from living at a rundown farm her husband bought to start a new future in America. He wants her to return to England.

Rachel refuses to go back to England where her father disowned her for marrying against his wishes. The farm is all she has, and she is determined to make it on her own. But Nathan has other ideas and becomes her farmhand to discourage her from staying in America. Instead he ends up protecting her and being challenged by her. Can two wounded people heal each other?

Chapter One Excerpt:

March 1816

“We are going to die,” Rachel Gordon’s young maid cried out.

Rachel looked up at the clouds rolling in. Dark, ominous ones. She shivered and pulled her shawl tighter about her as the breeze picked up. A storm brewed, and she still had several miles to go until she reached her new home in South Carolina. “God willing, we will make it, Maddy.”

Fear deepened the lines on Maddy’s plain face. “’Tis like the squall on the boat.”

Lightning flashed, momentarily brightening the shadows of the forest. A clap of thunder rumbled the ground. Maddy screamed. The old gelding that pulled the cart—all Rachel’s meager coins could afford—increased its speed, weaving from side to side. Out of control.

Determined to be there before nightfall and in one piece, Rachel gripped the reins and fought to slow the maddening pace of the horse. Finally it resumed its plodding step. The weather-beaten cart she had bought near the dock in Charleston hit a bump in the road, jostling her into Maddy. Her maid clutched the seat with one hand and held onto Rachel with the other.

Steadying herself, Rachel rested her wrists on her rounded stomach. She had more than herself and Maddy to worry about now. Her life had changed so much since she left her ancestral home in England. She had married, conceived a child, and was now a widow, all in the space of a year. And worse, she was going to a place she had never seen because she had nowhere else to go. Her husband had used most of their money to purchase this plantation she was traveling to. It was her future, whether she wanted it to be or not.

The warmth of a spring day quickly faded as the sky grew blacker. Rachel stared at the menacing clouds through the treetops and realized she would not make it to her new home before the storm broke. She scanned the area for a place to seek shelter.

Sinister shadows lurked just beyond the road. Again she shivered, her imagination conjuring images of wild animals staring at her from the depths of the forest. She’d heard stories about the bears. Huge. Fierce. Sharp teeth and claws. Shifting on the seat, she darted a glance from side to side, feeling as though she were some beast’s next meal. She could not stop, even if it poured down rain.

Oh, how she missed England, with its gently rolling hills and refined beauty—not this raw wilderness. Like a fish floundering on land, she did not belong here. Nothing in her life had prepared her for this strange environment.

Drops of water spattered her. The wind picked up.

“That man on the boat told me about a big cat. They are out there.” Maddy whimpered, draping her shawl over her head and hunching her shoulders. “Lord, have mercy on us.”

Rachel forced herself to keep her gaze fixed on the road ahead. Once they were at the plantation Maddy would settle down. The squall two days out of Charleston had nearly sunk the ship they had traveled in. Surely this storm would not be as bad.

Taking deep breaths, Rachel calmed her racing thoughts and heartbeat. Pain spread through her lower back. She gripped the reins, the leather digging into her palms. The pain dulled to an ache. Another deep inhalation and the panic nibbling at her composure abated. Soon she would be at her new home and could sit in front of a warm fire, put her legs up, and rest. Hopefully the letter her husband had sent ahead would alert any staff to her arrival. Her glance strayed to the tall pine trees, swaying in the gust. Everything would be all right when she arrived at Dalton Plantation.

But even with Maddy next to her on the seat, the feeling she was the only person in the world overwhelmed her.

The wind picked up, whipping strands of her long brown hair that had escaped its coiffure about her face and threatening to whisk away her bonnet. Lightning zigzagged across the sky, followed by thunder. Maddy jumped in her seat. The gelding’s ears flattened.

A chill embedded itself deep in Rachel. She arched her back to ease the pang still plaguing her. Suddenly lightning struck a tree nearby, its flash a beacon in the growing darkness. A crack as the pine split into two pieces echoed through the forest. Immediately afterward, a boom of thunder cleaved the air. Maddy shrieked. The horse increased its pace while a few more splotches of water splashed Rachel. Then all at once rain fell in gray sheets.

The gelding lurched forward even faster. Rachel grasped the reins, trying to maintain control. She pulled on the leather straps to slow the horse. Nothing. He kept galloping down the road, oblivious to his surroundings, as though the hounds of hell were nipping at his hooves.

Friday, August 26, 2011

When Life's Murky...

Hi Friends,

In my heart, I'm a scientist. Got my BS in Chemisty, taught high biology, and worked in the research department of a pharmeceutical company. I guess it all started in the seventh grade when I first looked through a microscope at a drop of pond water. I still remember my amazement at all that I could see through the microscope – dozens of little amoeba, paramecium, and specks of who-knew-what. The water teemed with life and activity that had been invisible to my naked eye.

Since then, through years of life that rarely goes as expected, I've discovered that life itself is a lot like a drop of murky pond water. It's often unclear, difficult to see through, and hard to understand.

But faith is a microscope. It shows me what I cannot see without it. Without faith, God’s hand in my life, his workings, his glory, are all invisible to me. All I see is the murky, yucky-ness.

When I look at life through the microsope of faith, through the lens of hope -- when I focus in on God and his workings even in the small stuff, then I truly see. God is moving. There is LIFE in the murkiness, and there is PURPOSE even in the muck.

May you see even the smallest details of your life today through the eyes of faith and hope. May you focus in through the muck, see the hand of God, and be filled with AMAZEMENT!

Friday, August 19, 2011

Thoughts on Galatians 6, Shrimp, & Servanthood)

Hi Friends,

If you've been following my posts on Facebook (www.facebook.com/MarloSchalesky) you know that I've been reading through Galatians this week. I also ate lunch at Bubba Gump's yesterday with the fam (I had the shrimp cocktail! ... but not the beer - ha!). And that reminded me of this story of shrimp and servanthood. Read on to find out more . . .

I’ve discovered the secret to better understanding my Bible – eat out more often! Who would have thought I’d gain valuable insights into scripture at my favorite seafood restaurant? But I did.

I’d been thinking about Galatians 6:1-10 and wondering how to reconcile its seemingly contradictory message. On the one hand, Galatians 6:2 (NIV) told me to “Carry each other's burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.” And then, only a few verses down, Paul instructs “each one should carry his own load.” (Gal. 6:5, NIV)

Huh? Which is it? Do I carry others’ burdens or make everyone carry his own? Which fulfills the law of Christ?

That night at Bubba Gump Shrimp Company, I discovered the answer was both.

There I was, sitting with my family at Bubba Gump’s, munching a plateful of delicious peel-n-eat shrimp. Servers buzzed around, bringing buckets and plates of steaming food, scribbling down orders, clearing leftovers from the tables around me. Amidst smiles and clinking glasses, they asked Forrest Gump trivia questions and recommended their favorite dishes.

I stuffed in another juicy shrimp and reached for my iced tea glass. It was empty. But no worries! Unlike other restaurants, at Bubba’s you don’t have to try to catch your server’s eye, or raise your glass when they pass and jiggle the ice. Instead Bubba’s has this simple, yet ingenious, contraption of two license plates hooked together. When the blue “Run, Forrest, Run” sign is showing on the table, the servers know you have what you need. But flip the license place to the “Stop, Forrest, Stop” sign, and whoever the closest server is will stop and ask what they can get for you.

An empty ice tea glass meant that I needed to flip the sign. So I did. A moment later, a server stopped. Seconds after that, my ice tea glass was full again. And all the while, busy servers still zipped around the tables, getting customers just what was needed.

As I drank tea and watched the woman at the next table flip her sign, I discovered the secret to the mystery of Galatians 6. Each server was carrying his or her own load. No one was slacking, all were working hard to make sure the customers had what they needed. But they were carrying each other’s loads too. As soon as a sign was flipped, someone was there, whether it was their assigned table or not.

The key was they weren’t focused on themselves, on getting credit for being a great server, or making sure they didn’t do more than others. As in Galatians 6:4, instead of comparing, their focus was on making sure the customers, all the customers, were happy. Their goal was to serve, to do good to those of us who were seated. And because of that focus, they became an excellent example of Galatians 6.

The attitude of the servers at Bubba’s is what I want in my life – relationships in which the main concern is not “getting ahead” but rather “doing right,” where I’m working together with others to do good and to serve.

Relationships like that have to start with me. My focus needs to be in line with what Paul instructs in Galatians 6:10 (NIV), “Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people…” That, I’ve come to see, is what it means to fulfill the law of Christ in my life. It means to be focused not on self and getting an advantage, but on doing good and serving, and banding together with others to serve better and help more, all of us doing carrying our own loads and also the burdens of one another.

And happily for me, it also means it’s okay to eat out a little more often!

Friday, August 12, 2011

What God Really Wants

Hi Friends,

This week, on a whim, my daughter Bethany and I played hookey from home and ran out for a bit of evening shopping and a movie. (Okay, that's picture's not Bethany, it's Jordyn, but her and her daddy were so cute I just had to share!) We walked the mall, chatted about the upcoming school year, gasped over the price of the Hello Kitty backpack she wanted (no we didn't buy it!), picked out shirts for her sisters, and browsed through the earrings at Claires. Then, we munched Sour candy and Junior Mints through the final Harry Potter movie together. It was a great time, and I realized how much I enjoy spending time with my daughter. I could have done all those things alone, but it was much more fun with her along.

So I was reminded of a story that my husband, Bryan, told me about when he was a teen. Here's that story, which reminds me again of what God wants from ME (and you!):

Dad Vs. Godzilla (from Bryan):

“Aw, com’on Dad, not now,” I groaned, shifting my legs across the couch while flipping the channel between an old rerun of Godzilla and the pro bowler’s tour. “It’s Saturday. I wanna relax.” I sensed the last word coming out with a bit of a whine and winced. I didn’t want Dad to think I was a whiner.

Dad sighed and went back to the garage. I could tell he was disappointed. He wanted me to help him with his old Chevy Caprice, but it was Saturday, my day to kick back and enjoy lethargy. It had been a hard week, I told myself. Practice had been tough, and my classes not much easier. I was tired. I deserved a rest. I owed it to myself to take a day off and do nothing. Besides, I didn’t know anything about cars anyway, at least compared to my Dad. He didn’t really need my help.

Some tools clanked in the garage as my Dad began the work. I felt my conscience prick me, but I squashed it down. The pillow behind my head felt good. I stretched my arms up and let out a long sigh, allowing my muscles to melt into a shallow pool of leisure.

What did Dad want my help for anyway? He could do just fine without me. I flicked the remote control again and watched Godzilla stomp through Tokyo. Smash, crash, roar ... the same ol’ Godzilla. Flipping off the TV, I closed my eyes. This was the life—complete relaxation.

My eyes were closed for about two seconds before my conscience started to jab at me again. What would it hurt to help Dad for a little while? Maybe I should at least go out and see what he was doing. Or maybe I should just forget it and let Dad do his thing? I didn’t care about that old, dilapidated Chevy. A Ferrari, maybe, but a Caprice? Even Godzilla was exciting compared to that. I rolled over and slammed the pillow over my head. Sounds of tools jingling in the garage still assaulted my ears. A groan erupted from deep in my throat. “It’s Saturday,” I reminded myself, “I just want to kick back.”

My head bounced up with a jolt as a sudden impact hit the couch. I peeked from under my pillow with a growl and saw Mom sitting about a foot from me, a huge load of laundry piled at her side. She sat staring at me for a moment, then proceeded to start folding socks. I buried my head again. Mom looked at me and remained silent. Something was wrong.

The clang of a large wrench on cement startled both of us. I looked apprehensively at Mom. Her eyes were on me again, with that troubled look that made me uncomfortable. My eyes slid down to contemplate the floor.

“He just wants to spend time with you,” she murmured, her eyes flitting back to the pair of socks in her hand. That was all. With one last look, she stood up and went to the kitchen, her words still ringing in my ears.

“He just wants to spend time with you.” I lay back and thought about that, suspecting that what Mom said was true. I was lucky to have a father that loved me enough to want to do things with me. Lots of my friends had fathers who worked all the time or were never home for one reason or another. My best friend didn’t have any father at all.

Suddenly, I felt like a heel. It was true that Dad didn’t need my help, and he certainly didn’t need my expertise, but he did want my company. And I had groaned and whined and chosen Godzilla over my Dad. My head buried itself into the pillow again.

I sighed. There was only one thing left to do, go out and help Dad. Slowly, I flung my feet to the floor and trudged out to the garage.

“Hi Dad,” I muttered. “What do ya want me to do?” The words came more enthusiastic than I felt.

Dad pulled his head out from under the engine and wiped the back of one greasy hand over his forehead. Slowly, a big smile of delight replaced the sad look that had been on his face moments before.

“Hey, son,” Dad grinned back at me. “Grab me a five eighths wrench over there,” he motioned to the tool box with his chin, his hands embedded again in the Chevy’s engine.

I rolled up my sleeves and hurried to get the wrench. For the rest of the day, Dad and I worked side by side, sweating, grunting, and sharing little bits of our thoughts over the old engine. By the end of the day, my face was as grease smeared as Dad’s, and I had a long tear in my shirt where the Chevy had gotten the better of me. But, the time with Dad had been worth it. It had been a great day, much better than reruns of Godzilla.

The next day, as I sat in church and listened to my Pastor speak about how God has adopted us as sons, I thought about my day with Dad. Was my Heavenly Father like my earthly one? Did He ask me to do things, like come to church and help out with youth activities just because He wanted to spend time with me? It was a startling thought.

Maybe God didn’t need my help at all, but He wanted it anyway—just like Dad. God could do anything He wanted without my help, but maybe He wanted me to be involved with the things He was doing just so I could spend time with Him, and come out looking like Him at the end of the job.

How many times did I miss out on God’s fellowship because I didn’t want to bother to do what He was doing? How many times had I shrugged aside my relationship with my Heavenly Father for things that were as stupid as Godzilla reruns? All of a sudden, little excuses like “I’m too tired,” “I do enough already,” and “My help isn’t really needed anyway,” seemed silly to me. How could a person be too tired for God, or get too much time with Him?

That was many years ago now. But today God’s reasons for wanting me to do ministry have stayed the same. I’m still just the son who He longs to spend time with. Now I know that God cares a lot more about me and my relationship with Him than He does about how much I can do, or how well I can do it. It’s not my abilities He wants as much as my companionship. And what can be better than spending time with God, the Creator of all the Universe, who could have and do anything He wants, and what He wants most is ME!

Needless to say, I don’t watch much Godzilla anymore. Instead, I grab the tools and say, “Let’s go!” whether it’s Saturday or not.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

When You're Feeling Like Dirt...

Hi Friends,

I've been thinking about this verse from Psalm 103 (verse 14) today: "for he knows how we are formed, he remembers that we are dust." Dust doesn't seem very beautiful or important or desirable. In fact, it just seems kinda, well, dirty. But God sees dust differently. He loves His dusty children. So, as I've been thinking about the verse, and pondering the attributes of dust, I remembered this story that grew out of a scene from my very first book, Cry Freedom. See what you think:

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 no longer pray for wings like the butterfly. Instead, I pray to stay within the light.