Welcome to the blog of author Marlo Schalesky!

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Living Fully ... Forgetting Fear

Hi Friends,

As Jordyn has been learning to walk this month (you go, girl!), toddling around, peeking over furniture, falling, getting up, giggling as she's on the go, I was reminded of when Jayden was a baby and first pulling himself to a stand.  God taught me something about taking risks in Him back then, and reminded me this week.  So, here's Jayden's standing story.  May it inspire you to take risks with God and grow in Him!
I held my breath and watched as Jayden struggled to pull himself up using the planter in my office.  At eight months old, he was determined to master the art of standing.  
For him, it didn’t matter that just that morning he’d fallen twice, hit his face on the floor both times, and given himself a fat lip. He’d cried loud and hard each time, but after a few moments, he was back at it again. Working, stretching, striving to do more, to stand longer, to see beyond what could be seen from all fours.  He was indomitable in his desire to see his world from new heights.
So, he pulled, he grunted, he wobbled, he swayed.  And finally, he did it.  He stood tall and straight with his hands grasping the edge of the planter.  Then, he turned and grinned at me before plopping back to the floor.  I clapped and leaned back as he crawled to the bookcase, grabbed the bottom shelf, and strained to stand again.  And again.  And again.

For an hour he puttered around my office, working to pull himself up on everything he could reach.  Meanwhile, I sat at my desk and worked too.  Except I was working to pull out the right words to answer emails from a few difficult people in my life.  He strained, I strained.  He groaned, I groaned.  I almost gave up.  He never did.  
I stared at my computer screen, not wanting to reach out again, try again, love again. But Jayden showed me I was wrong.
I rested my fingers on the keyboard and glanced back as he balanced against the trash can.  Just the week before, he’d been happy swinging in his baby swing or jumping in his bouncer.  But now those things weren’t enough.  Instead, he wanted to grunt and grin, struggle and stand.  And next, he turned to tackle the stairs.  
As I watched him, I learned something important about myself and about God.  Jayden wanted to go more places, do more things, explore and stretch his newfound abilities. Even when it hurt, even when he failed, even when he wobbled and fell.  He didn’t care, because when he stood, he could see things, touch things, feel things that he never could experience if he stayed on the ground.  At eight months old, he knew that pain and failure shouldn’t stop him.  
By watching him, I realized that it shouldn’t stop me either.  Just because I’ve loved and been hurt, doesn’t mean I should be reluctant to love again.  Just because I’d reached out and failed, shouldn’t mean I don’t reach out again.  God wants me to keep trying, keep reaching, keep struggling to do what’s right.  Yet, too often, I let past pain hold me back from trying more, stretching, and pushing the limits of my faith.  I worry about being hurt again and forgot the wonder of finding new freedom in being like Christ.  
2 Timothy 1:7 (NIV) says,For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline.”  In the verse before, Paul urges Timothy to “fan into flame the gift of God” – not to shrink back, but to push forward to allow the fire to grow within him.  
So, as Jayden stretched his arms to the second step and bent his knee to climb one more stair, he reminded me that I, too, want to be persistent in my walk with God. I want to be stretching, growing, trying to be more like Him every day.  And that means choosing to love, choosing to reach out, choosing to give.  And when I get a fat lip, I ought to just have a good cry, then keep on pushing forward in the things that God would have me do.  Only when I love like Him, even after being hurt, can I see new things, touch new horizons, reach the new heights He has planned for me. 
These days, as I watch baby Jordyn following in her big brother's footsteps, I'm finding their relentless desire for growth still challenges me to forget past hurt and press on to follow God more fully, no matter how many fat lips I might get in the process!

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Are You Making Music With God?

Hi Friends,

Bethany got out her guitar this week, and I was reminded of this story:

Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart . . .

Matthew 11:29 (NIV)

Small brows furrowed in concentration. Small fingers pressed hard on guitar frets. Small thumbs thrummed the strings.

And music filled the room – awkward, off-key, clashing music. But to my mommy-ears, the sounds were sweet.

Bethany and Joelle, my two young daughter

s, were working so hard to learn how to play real music on their brand new kids’ guitars. They sat on short stools in front of their dad, with their guitars on t

heir laps and their fingers poised over the strings.

Bryan held his own guitar (adult-sized, of course) and strummed the chord again. A perfect C warbled from his instrument. He paused. “See, like that. Now you try.” He placed the girls’ fingers on the proper frets one more time.

They tried again – studying the way Daddy did it, checking their own fingers, and playing the note. Studying, checking, trying again. Boldly, joyfully, with Daddy’s help.

It wasn’t perfect, but each time, the sound improved. By the end, their fingers were dented by the strings, their picks were well worn, and they had almost learned to produce a decent C chord.

But most importantly, they were happy. Glowing. Why? Because they were playing guitar, just like Daddy.

For us, Jesus is our Master Musician. I’m called to be like Him, to learn from Him. Doing that, I’ve come to realize, isn’t a whole lot different from my girls learning to play guitar.

Jesus is making music all around me. If I pay attention, I can make music too. It may not be perfect. It may a little off-key, a little awkward. But if I practice and watch the master musician – if I allow him to move my fingers along the frets, I too can play the notes of heaven, and bring beautiful music into the lives of those around me.

So, today, study, check, and try again. Play joyfully and boldly, with your gaze fixed on the Master Musician who is gentle and humble in heart.

TRY THIS: Close your eyes and listen to a piece of classical music. Focus on the way the harmonies blend together to create beautiful music. Notice that there are high notes and low notes, sharps and flats. Pray that you will recognize Jesus’ music in all the different “notes” of your day.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Broken ... and Beautiful

Hi Friends,

I spent some time with good friend, Kelli Standish in Capitola, CA a couple weeks ago. While we were there, we spent some time watching the ocean -- huge greenish-gray waves, tiny specks that were surfers, and the giant crash-and-wonder of the surf casting itself on the rocks.

As we watched, I was reminded of an analogy that I used in my novel, If Tomorrow Never Comes. We are like the dark waves, and Jesus is the Rock. Read on to soak up more of this idea in devotional form (complete with a fun activity suggestion at the end!)


by Marlo Schalesky

As it is written: “See, I lay in Zion a stone that causes men to stumble and a rock that makes them fall, and the one who trusts in him will never be put to shame.”

Romans 9:33 (NIV)

I sat on a large boulder at the beach and watched the waves crash against the rocky shore. The surf pounded against the rocks, splashed over them, glittered with myriad colors.

I studied the waves and felt their brokenness. I was broken too, by prayers that seemed unanswered, dreams that died, hurts that went too deep for words. I was like the water, crashing up against the immovable rock of God’s will. All my tears, all my frustrations, all the disappointments, like dark, murky waves in my soul.

My gaze fell on the surf again. On the strange color of greenish black. It, too, was dark and ugly.

Until it crashed against the rock.

Spray splashed up in an arc of pure, clean white. Then, it changed, reflecting a rainbow of color from the sunlight. And for that moment, it wasn’t dark. It wasn’t murky. It was stunningly beautiful. But only when it was broken on the rocks.

And I wondered, was I like the surf? Is it only when I am broken on Jesus, my Rock, that I reflect the light, shine with a rainbow of colors? Perhaps it is then that I am able to be molded in his shape, just like the water molds to the shape of the stone when falls back to the rock. Then, the darkness is cleansed, the ugliness transformed, the water beautiful to behold.

Only Jesus can do that.

As I sat there at the water’s edge, I began to see that real faith, true faith, doesn’t mean never doubting, never struggling, never being broken. Rather, true faith casts itself against the Rock. It keeps coming back, despite the darkness, despite the hurt. Faith arcs up from brokenness. It surrenders to the will of the immovable stone, and so it is transformed into a thing of wonder and beauty.

Only in brokenness can it be filled with color and light.

SUGGESTED ACTIVITY: Place a rock under a running faucet and observe the way the water changes to conform to the shape of the rock. Then, set the rock in a prominent place as a reminder of how Jesus can transform your brokenness into beauty.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Resurrection ... and Chocolate???

Hi Friends,

As you're preparing for an Easter filled with thankfulness and joy, I thought you might enjoy this reminder that ALL good things come from God ... even chocolate.


Trumped. By chocolate.

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

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

Then, we hunted for Easter baskets.

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

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

She nodded.

“Now, let’s get ready for church.”

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

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

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

She lifted her chin.

I smiled.

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

My face fell.

My husband snickered.

Mark laughed.

I groaned.

Chocolate. I’d been beaten by a handful of candy. Somehow, a few chocolates in the bottom of a basket overwhelmed a whole week of stories and crafts and activities. But then, I should have known. Joelle loves chocolate. She always has. To her, it’s the best thing in the world.

Music started at the front of the church. Joelle settled into her seat. A minute later, Grandpa arrived and sat next to us. Joelle sidled over to him.

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

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

My husband looked over at me and winked.

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

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

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

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