Welcome to the blog of author Marlo Schalesky!

Friday, March 30, 2012

Fun Easter Week Bible Activities for Kids

Hi Friends,

Remember that my $0.99 Easter Activity Booklet is available for Kindle HERE.

For the Free Kindle Reading App for your other mobile devices, just go to the above link and scroll down the right side of the page a bit to the link there.

Also feel free to share the link via the Share buttons on that page (also in the right column) or share buttons below.

I'll be starting these activities with my kids on Monday Hope you'll get the little booklet and join me in showing your kids the wonder of the Easter story in a fun and engaging way!

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

The Thief on the Cross

Hi Friends,

I'll be posting some activities to help you renew your wonder for Easter. Here's the first:

TRY THIS: Read Luke 23:32-43. Imagine what it would have been like to be crucified with Jesus. What would you see? What you hear? What would you smell? Imagine the sense of fear, pain, and hopelessness. Then, imagine what Jesus' resurrection meant to the thief who asked for mercy. What does that hope mean for you, specifically?

The Thief

Luke 23:35-43

Hung upon a cross to die

Was just what I deserved.

A thief was I, a scoundrel.

No plea had I reserved.

But Him, on the other hand,

Who hung there at my side,

He had not killed nor stolen,

He had not even lied.

Why hung He there, so sadly,

Amid the mocks and jeers,

Mutt'ring not a single word

Among His silent tears?

"Save yourself," they screamed at Him.

"And us," my partner cried.

He just turned and looked at me

And quietly He sighed.

Suddenly I spoke my heart,

My sins began to flee.

"When you get to your kingdom,

Jesus, remember me."

What does it mean for you to be remembered by Jesus? How does it make a difference in your life TODAY? Take a moment to thank God for remembering YOU when He was on the cross.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

What a New Baby Taught Me About Life...

Hi Friends,

I used some lessons from new baby at the women's retreat last weekend, and I thought it would be fun to share them here. These are some things that I learned from baby Jordyn last year, in the few weeks after she was born. (The point of using them in my talk was that God puts glimpses of His truth and wonder all around us - we just need to open our eyes and ears to see/hear what He's saying in our everyday lives.)

New baby lessons:

1) It's easiest to rest when you're tucked into the arms of someone who loves you. May I remember that I am tucked in the arms of God today, he loves me, I am not alone. What can be better than that?

2) (during her first real bath): Becoming clean can be scary, so it's important to trust the One doing the washing, even when the waters splash up around you. May I relax and trust God to make me clean, even when circumstances seem scary or new!

3) It's easier to be changed if you're not thrashing about fighting the procedure. So, next time I've made a mess and God wants to change me, may I remember to be still and know that He's God.

4) Baby had gas last night. What I learned: It's hard to take in the good stuff you need (wisdom, God's Word, peace, love) when you're full of hot air. :-)

5) Being hungry makes you cranky. So, when I'm anxious or irritable, perhaps I'm really just hungry for more of God. May I turn to Him to fill me!

6) When you know you're loved, you can take a lot more poking and prodding (baby puts up with A LOT from her 2 yo big brother who just adores her). So, how is God prodding you lately? Remember, it's because He loves and adores you!

7) When you're feeling well fed, you can put up with a lot. Make sure you're taking in plenty of God's Word and wisdom because life rarely goes as planned! (Learned while filling baby Jordyn up with milk at the urgent care yesterday while finding out that Bethany's wrist was indeed broken.)

8) Life lesson from baby delivery: Be wise and be ready because you don't really know how much time you have (learned after dilly-dallying here at home and getting to the hospital only 45 minutes before baby was born).

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

The THIRD Option - A New Way to Live

Hi Friends,

Last week, I talked about God being the God of Today, of Yesterday, and of Tomorrow. I talked about learning how I am not the god of my own life, but God is.

This week, I want to go a little deeper into that topic.

You see, the world offers us two options:

1. to believe that others owe us a living (the worse choice). This is the “we deserve” philosophy. It can be secular: the government, our parents, our kids, etc. owes us, we deserve a job, healthcare, a good life. This is the IT’S McDONALD’S FAULT THAT I’M FAT crowd. Or, it can be religious: God owes us a good life. After all, we’re good Christians, we deserve it. This is the "If God’s Real then there shouldn’t be any pain, injustice, or hardship in the world" crowd. We deserve better!

2. to believe we can achieve our dreams through hard work and determination (a better choice). This is the hard work, pull yourself up by your own bootstraps group. “Follow your dreams” “You can do anything you set your mind to.” “All it takes is hard work.” This is the “Successories” crowd -- You remember the posters with the success sayings that used to be so popular. And well, it is better to work hard than be lazy, better to persevere than to sit around waiting for others to give you life on a silver platter. But, the problem is, very little of our lives is actually within our control. This option says we are the gods of our lives, we have the power. We can accomplish OUR dreams, OUR hopes, OUR plans.

But, I have come to see that God offers us an unbelievable, amazing, THIRD CHOICE (Whoo Hoo!) -- to make life not about US at all, but to make it about Him, following Him, laying down our lives for Him, living for Him. Making Him truly the God of our lives.

The way of obedience and submission to Him is the best way of all, because the way of laying down our dreams to embrace His, to following not our dreams but HIM, is what it means to make Him the God of our lives rather than ourselves. It's not setting our goals and working hard for them; It's dying to self-goals, self-control, and living in a state of joyful following of HIM every day.

See, what God calls us to is higher, better, more glorious. He calls us not to ourselves, our plans, our dreams, our goals, but to Himself.

Recognizing God's control, submitting to and following Him, is a higher calling. And it's not one we accomplish overnight. It is the calling of a LIFETIME, not something we check off a list and say "yep, I do that." It is the daily calling to die more to self a bit more every day, and follow Him a bit more closely, a bit more clearly. Every day.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Stuart Brannon's Final Shot by Stephen Bly

Hi Friends,

I'm pleased to tell you about this week's new book: Stuart Brannon's Final Shot by Stephen Bly (and family). While Steve was in the midst of writing this book, he died of cancer. His family finished the book. Here's a bit about it, including how his family finished the book and a sample excerpt:

Stuart Brannon's Final Shot

Historical Fiction by Stephen Bly

with Janet Chester Bly, Russell Bly, Michael Bly & Aaron Bly

Finishing Dad's novel was a family affair. Can a committee create fiction? We had the passion to find out. Here's how we did it: http://www.christianfictiononlinemagazine.com/home_publisher.html

It's 1905. Two orphans flee from Oregon's Tillamook Head. One of them is branded a hero. Do they tell the truth and risk the wrath of a dangerous man? Meanwhile, a retired lawman searches for his missing U.S. Marshal friend while he grapples with the game of golf on behalf of a celebrity tournament.

Rancher and widower Stuart Brannon had no intention of leaving his beloved Arizona Territory to attend the Lewis and Clark Centennial Exposition in Portland. His life no longer consisted of men to track down ... outlaws trying to kill him ... gangs preying on the innocent. Then the telegrams came ... how could he refuse Lady Harriet Reed-Fletcher and the President of the United States?



Janet Chester Bly


My husband, Stephen Bly, hated half-done jobs. He couldn’t stand a ‘to do’ list without immediate action. One big project for 2011: complete his novel, Stuart Brannon: The Final Shot.

When he passed away on June 9th, 2011, my sons said to me, “Let’s finish that book.”

The idea grew. They had their dad’s creativity and wit. They’d impart their father’s input. I also discovered the value of their feedback and encouragement. I couldn’t do it without them.

The editor gave us a four-month extension. This incomplete project became a family affair.

Can a committee write a novel? We had the passion to find out.

Steve left us 7,000 words, a synopsis and some character names. We read over his sample chapters.

“It reads more like a mystery than a western,” we four surmised.

This book must resonate like a Stephen Bly novel and resemble the early Stuart Brannon Series. Yet, this story’s different. Brannon’s older. He struggles to fit into the 20th Century. He also grapples with the game of golf on behalf of a celebrity charity tournament.

We immersed ourselves in the original series. We scanned other Stephen Bly novels for Brannon mentions. I scoured Steve’s resources for a basic grounding in the western world he knew so well. I also skimmed our fiction writing books for tips and printed out excerpts for the sons.

We focused our main theme on fighting for justice, truth and mercy.

We met weekly to brainstorm and critique. We started with a cluster diagram of all the known factors. Spirited discussions stirred debate as well as consensus.

We assigned each other research topics, then talked through and roughed out random scenes. We drafted an outline and plot points to give direction for which scenes to create next.

We tried to include as much of Steve’s writings as we could.

To keep the constant additions discernable, I used a different color type each week that turned into a rainbow manuscript. Even with this trick and the outline, the key challenge was to keep the story’s timeline straight.

Then I took a trip to Oregon, to discover and experience what Steve knew and we didn’t. This added much needed color and revealed critical mistakes.

The deadline loomed as we aimed for 75,000 words. I struggled to eek out 2,000 words daily. When Aaron devised an adventure scene and Mike produced the golf tourney and poker game settings, I knew we’d hit the target count.

After we exceeded our goal, we deleted scenes and characters that didn’t move the plot. The last days and hours were frantic with attempts to get it as perfect as possible.

At 10:36 a.m. on November 1st, 2011, son Mike emailed me, “Well? Ready to push ‘send’?

At 11:46 a.m., I did.

We finished Steve’s last undone task.


Sunday afternoon, June 11, 1905, south of Portland

“I thought you was dead.” The words rumbled out of some deep, dark pit of tales told at late night campfires and smoky saloons. Thick drops of dirty sweat careened down the bearded man’s face. A ripped-in-shreds shirt sleeve exposed a long, jagged old scar on his left arm. Bloodshot brown eyes glared into the future as if forecasting bad news. Very bad news.

“A common mistake.”

A faded, red bandana brushed the man’s bulging neck. His bronzed face held to the tight expression of a man looking for an advantage. “No foolin’. Argentiferous Jones said he shot you dead over a poker hand in Bisbee. I believe you was packin’ three queens.”

“He was wrong.” Every eye in the dining car watched the trigger of Stuart Brannon’s drawn Colt .44 revolver, ready to witness a sudden blast.

“I can see that now and would like to be given a chance to atone for my erroneous assumption.”

“I’m sure you would. You stopped this train on a tall trestle in the middle of a river, cold-cocked the conductor, stole the possessions of all the passengers and whatever else of cargo you found on board, and in the mix scared the women, children, and most of the men near to death. Out West a man can hang for such offenses.”

He tried to straighten his bow-legs, puffed out his huge chest. His good eye glared at Brannon like the headlight of a locomotive. “What do you get out of this? Surely you don’t expect to shoot me in front of these delicate ladies. What if I just put down my pistol and . . .”

Brannon glared right back. “And what do all of us get out of that?”

The man croaked out the words. “A clear conscience?”

“Already got one.” Brannon shoved the muzzle closer to the man’s ripped ten-gallon-hat with the creased crown and molded brim.

“What if I return the money and goods to all these fine folks on the train?”

“That’s a start.”

He dropped a leather sack to the carpeted floor, stepped back, and raised his hands. “What else can I do?”

“Hike down the track to the next town and turn yourself in to the sheriff for robbing this train.”

“You mean, turn myself in on my own accord?”

“Yep. You can do it. We’ll just ride on up ahead and let them know you’re on your way.”

“No one does that, especially Slash Barranca.” He studied Brannon to watch for the reaction.

Brannon didn’t blink. “Well, Slash, here’s your chance to stand out from a crowd of no-goods.”

“So, you know who I am?”

“Nope. Never heard of you.”

“Are you sure you’re the original Stuart Brannon?”

“The real question is, do you trust that I’m Stuart Brannon? If you aren’t certain, then make your move and see what happens. And if you still wonder, then say goodbye to these nice folks. I’m pullin’ this trigger right now. So, what’s your choice?”

The man looked over the crowd. His gaze stopped at two men in their fifties in brown suits. One of them glared a kind of warning. The other looked down. Brannon wondered if Barranca was going to make an appeal to them. But his chin drooped to his chest and his words blurted out with such force, the windows almost rattled. “Yeah, you’re Brannon, all right.”

“Good. Leave the stash, your gun and your boots in the car. Then, start walkin’.”

“Now, how do you expect me to make it to town without boots?”

“Very slow. By the time you get to the other side of the bridge, there should be a nice little posse gathered. And don’t think about diving over the edge. You’ve got one foot of water and a fifty foot drop.”

Slash Barranca pulled up his pants’ legs as he climbed out of the train and stepped onto the rough track surface. Applause and “hurrahs” rocked the car as the train rolled away without the bootless outlaw. The staff seemed eager to return order and routine for the passengers as quick as possible. Announcements of supper followed with beefsteak, fried eggs and fried potatoes wheeled out to the dining car. A little overdone, but no one complained.

A huge sign made of logs greeted them at the next stop when they transported the injured conductor off the train.

100 Miles to Portland, Oregon

Home of the world’s famous

Lewis and Clark Centennial Exposition

Brannon stretched his arms and legs and tried to remove the dust from his travel suit. No amount of brushing or shaking made a dent. He pulled out a copy of Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson that his daughter-in-law, Jannette, had given him before he left Arizona, but his mind wandered. He ran through the recent events once more.

It started at the Prescott Post Office with one of those rosy-scented letters from Lady Harriet Reed-Fletcher.

When Lady Fletcher sends you a scented letter, it’s a dangerous omen.

The answer he gave her was “no.”

At fifty-eight years old, Stuart Brannon had no intention of leaving his beloved ranch or Arizona Territory, not even for a long-time, good friend like Harriet. No matter how many times she offered her appeal—“I need one more celebrity . . . It’s for the Willamette Orphan Farm . . . It won’t cost you anything.” But she could not convince him to go to Oregon, especially to participate in a golf tournament charity event in conjunction with the Lewis and Clark Centennial Exposition.

What was she thinking?

Yes, Captains Lewis and Clark were his heroes.

Yes, they deserved a gala celebration.

And yes, from what he heard, the Oregon coast promised a refreshing change from the desert landscape.

But he had never once picked up a golf club. An old rancher and retired lawman playing on a golf course? What a ridiculous idea.

And the Triple B ranch needed him.

Or he needed the ranch, since his adopted son, Littlefoot Brannon, could oversee and do most of the work.

Life had become a peaceful routine. L.F. and his wife, Jannette, provided him with four over-active grandchildren, who played tag, leapfrog, hopscotch and occasional simple card games, but more important, listened to his stories.

No more evil men to track down. No one trying to shoot him in the back. No lawless gangs preying on the innocent . . . not near his ranch anyway.

Then the telegram came from another friend, Theodore Roosevelt. Stuart, I need you in Portland. Tom Wiseman is missing. I think there’s a cover-up going on. Say you’re going to the Exposition. Find out how a U.S. Marshal can disappear and no one knows why. T.R.

If Tom Wiseman had vanished, Brannon suspected the marshal initiated the event. But why? And where?

But he was too close a friend to ignore this plea. As a government worker, as well as an Arizona rancher, Tom Wiseman had aided him with personal and legal problems. And many times Tom Wiseman had stood with Brannon against lawbreakers, when no one else could or would.

And how could he refuse a request from the President of the United States?


Copyright©2012 Please do not reproduce without permission.

Stuart Brannon's Final Shot now available in hardback & via all popular ebook formats. Paperback edition coming soon. Order through your local bookstore or online at sites such as http://www.BlyBooks.com http://www.amazon.com/ or http://www.barnesandnoble.com/

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Fun Easter Week Bible Activities for Kids

Hi Friends,

New Booklet!! Yay!! Just had to share in case any of you have kids (or grandkids) and are looking for some fun, meaningful activities/crafts for Holy Week. I've been doing these week-long activities with my kids for years, walking them through the events of the week before Easter, up to the resurrection, in a really engaging way (they LOVE it!). So, this year, I thought I'd put the activities together in e-booklet form and make it available for the Kindle so anyone else who'd like to make Easter about more than bunnies, baskets, and eggs, could have a little extra help and see what's worked for us. The booklet is only 99 cents, so you may want to just give it a try and see if your kids love it as much as mine do.

Anyway, here's the Amazon link to the book. I hope you'll give it a try if you think it will be at all useful to you: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B007I8PPSO

So, I'm sitting her doing this blog post, with the little ones playing quietly (which should have been my first warning!) behind me. And turn around to because it's time for Beanie's nap ... and what should I find. Sigh. Never a dull moment around here! (And we have ties to keep the fireplace shut ... which were left undone, and a gate to keep them back from the fireplace, which Jayden must have opened -- which goes to show, that even our best laid plans often go awry!). So, clean up time around here, vacuuming, floor scrubbing, baths, laundry ... but oh, what fun it is to play in the ashes ... gives a whole new meaning to Ash Wednesday (except it's Thursday and that was last week!).

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

God of Yesterday, Today, Tomorrow

Hi Friends,

Today I thought I'd share a devotional thought with you about trusting God for all our yesterdays, todays, and tomorrows. I found this a helpful reminder and activity for me in growing deeper in Christ. Hopefully you'll find it useful too! Here ya go:

“I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God,

“who is, and who was, and who is to come, the Almighty.”

Revelation 1:8 (NIV)

I’ve recently discovered a disturbing fact. I’m not God. And while that may seem like an obvious truth, it defies much of what I was told as a child. “You can do anything you set your mind to,” “Achieve your dreams,” “All it takes is a little hard work.” I was taught that I am the god of my todays, yesterdays, and tomorrows. But it’s not true.

Very little of my life is actually within my control. I can’t undo past mistakes. I can’t control what happens to me today – if someone will crash into my car, if it’ll rain and spoil my morning run, if I catch a cold. I can’t even guarantee my future. I could die today, or get cancer, or lose my job. That’s why I’m glad Jesus is God of today, yesterday, and tomorrow.

Jesus is God of today. Whatever happens is in His hands. He is the God of how I choose to spend this day, this hour, this minute. None of my “now” belongs to me. He is God of it all. And so I don’t need to grasp and strain, strive and fear. I only need to follow, trust, and be faithful. The rest is up to him.

Jesus is God of yesterday. There’s nothing in my past that can’t be forgiven, and there’s nothing I’ve done that He can’t transform for his glory. The Jesus who made an instrument of death (the cross) into a symbol of hope and redemption, can also remake the ugly things in my past into signposts of his love and glory.

Jesus is God of tomorrow, of my hopes and dreams, and my fears. Only He can keep me safe; only He can make my dreams come true. I don’t need to cling to my own plans and dreams. Instead, I can embrace whatever he has for me.

I can do all this because he is God and I am not. Today, yesterday, forever.

ACTIVITY: Write the words TODAY, YESTERDAY, TOMORROW in columns on a piece of paper. Then, under the TODAY column, write down one character trait of Jesus that you would like to see improved in yourself today. Under the YESTERDAY column, list one past hurt, mistake, or failure that you would like to see Jesus transform for his glory. Under the TOMORROW column, list one area in which you’d like to trust him more.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Sarai by Jill Eileen Smith

Hi Friends,

Here's the new book I have to tell you about this week: Sarai by Jill Eileen Smith. Looks like a good one! Here's some info:


by Jill Eileen Smith

He promised her his heart. She promised him a son. But how long must they wait?

Sarai, the last child of her aged father, is beautiful, spoiled, and used to getting her own way. Even as a young girl, she is aware of the way men look at her, including her half brother Abram. When Abram finally requests Sarai’s hand, she asks one thing–that he promise never to take another wife as long as she lives. Even her father thinks the demand is restrictive and agrees to the union only if Sarai makes a promise in return–to give Abram a son and heir. Certain she can easily do that, Sarai agrees.

But as the years stretch on and Sarai’s womb remains empty, she becomes desperate to fulfill her end of the bargain–lest Abram decide that he will not fulfill his. To what lengths will Sarai go in her quest to bear a son? And how long will Abram’s patience last?

From PW (Publisher’s Weekly):

“Smith is at her best in handling the triangulated relationship between Abraham, Sarah, and Hagar…Smith breathes new imaginative life into a well-known sacred story.”


Ur, 2051 BC

Sarai glanced across the courtyard, catching Abram’s gaze. His half smile and the twinkle in his eye warmed her more than the wine she had tasted at the start of the ceremony. Music drifted around them as the bridal couple—their nephew Lot and his new wife, Melah—took their seats on the bench beneath the canopy and accepted rich foods from the hands of the servants.

“This whole wedding is a disgrace, you know.” Sarai’s sister-in-law Milcah stood at her elbow and leaned close to her ear. “Why her father agreed to the marriage after Lot had already humbled the girl . . . Though I suppose he didn’t have much choice. Who else would want her after she’d already given in to Lot’s charms?” Milcah batted at a fly, sending it away. “I can’t imagine why Lot couldn’t wait with such a one. It’s not as though she’s a beauty or a temptress. It seems like he could have done better.” The last words came out in a whisper as Milcah moved in close again.

Sarai turned from watching the bridal couple to meet Milcah’s pinched gaze. “If it is true that a babe is already on the way, it is better they marry.” She had wearied of the heated debate and shame Lot had brought down on her household, particularly on Abram.

“Abi Terah seems pleased with the arrangement.” Milcah touched Sarai’s shoulder and pointed toward their father. “Though his conditions did seem a little harsh toward Lot, while Melah came away already with child and married to a man who can never put her aside or take another. I might have given in to Nahor before our betrothal for such a promise.” She laughed at that, then shifted her ample bulk, bursting with child herself, to face Sarai once more.

To read the rest of the chapter, visit Jill’s website: http://www.jilleileensmith.com/books/sarai/preview/

For links to purchase the book online visit: http://www.jilleileensmith.com/books/sarai/ or visit your favorite local bookstore.

Jill Eileen Smith is the bestselling author of Michal, Abigail, and Bathsheba, all part of the the Wives of King David series. Her research into the lives of David's wives has taken her from the Bible to Israel, and she particularly enjoys learning how women lived in Old Testament times. She lives with her family in southeast Michigan.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Contemplating the Cross...

Hi Friends,

I'm preparing my talks for the upcoming women's retreat for Carmel Presbyterian Church, and in doing so, am contemplating the cross and all it means to us.

It's easy to lose the wonder, the awe, the "wow" of all Jesus did for us. It's easy to not be amazed anymore. But then, I imagine what it must have been like for Mary, standing there as the blood dripped, as her son groaned, as all her hopes and dreams died. I think of how she stood there, not knowing that she was standing at the crossroads of all history - at the moment when everything changed and her son would redeem us all. I ponder how the moment of hopelessness was really the moment of glory. And I discover that maybe it's always like that -- when all seems lost, God is about to move with a power we never dreamed of. That's what the cross means. All things are transformed for His glory. Even the hopeless places in my life. Even the darkest moment in Mary's.

Meanwhile, here are some questions to contemplate as you focus on the cross (these are questions the small groups at the retreat will be discussing together):

-- Besides forgiving your sins so that you can go to heaven, what else did Jesus accomplish for you on the cross?

-- Imagine your life if Jesus didn’t die on the cross. What would it look like? How would you be different?

-- Describe the person you think God wants you to be.

-- What needs to be hung on the cross to die for you to become that woman? What thought patterns, habits, activities, fears, etc. need to be nailed to the cross for good?

-- What do you need to embrace to become who God created you to be? What new thought patterns, habits, activities, hopes need to come to life?

And, here is a video of my favorite song, Vicky Beeching's The Wonder of the Cross. Watch and listen if you want your wonder renewed:

Video for “Wonder Of The Cross”