Welcome to the blog of author Marlo Schalesky!

Friday, September 28, 2012

Can You Throw a Sponge at God?

Hi Friends,

How much can God take from us? How honest can we be? How near should we come with all our stuff and junk?  As I was pondering these questions this week, this story (this happened to my friend, Sarah), came to mind.  

Can you throw a sponge at God?  Read on to find out:

I watched as the little girl stood with a sponge dripping from her hand.  Her brow furrowed.  She chewed her lip.  Around her, the sounds and smells of the church carnival swirled and beckoned.  Children laughing, the whir of the cotton candy machine, the buttery scent of popcorn, and the music chirping from the cake walk around the corner.  

And still the girl stood there.  In front of her, a boy’s face peered out from a circle cut in a painted plywood board.  “Come on,” he called to her, “throw it at me.”  He stuck out his chin.

She looked at the sponge, then looked at the boy’s face.  She squeezed the sponge, squeezed her jaw, squeezed closed her eyes.  Then, she threw the sponge at him.  

And missed.

She opened her eyes.  

“Try again,” the boy called.

She picked up another sponge and threw it.  It missed.  A third, and missed again.   Her shoulders slumped.  Her lip quivered.  She turned away.

The boy stuck his face further through the hole.  “Don’t quit now.  Come closer.  Come on.  Get closer to me.”

The girl turned back around and took one more sponge.  Her hand trembled.  She took a step forward.


Another step.

“Get a lot closer.  Come right up to me.  Come on, you can do it.”

Another step.  A small one.  And still, the girl didn’t look too sure.  She glanced down at the sponge again, and then at the boy.  And I could tell that the boy’s words were warring with her instincts.  How could it be right to throw a wet sponge in someone else’s face?  Didn’t her mom tell her never to throw things?  And wasn’t the throwing line way back there anyway?  And wouldn’t that boy, who was a lot bigger than her, be mad if she got close and threw that ol’ sponge right in his face?  

“Closer!  Get right up here by me.”

She edged up, an itty bit more.  


And then, she took three fast steps until she stood right in front of the boy.  She took a deep, frantic breath, and threw the sponge.  It smacked into the boy’s face with a loud thwack.  Water flew everywhere. Her eyes grew round.

And then, the boy laughed.  She laughed.  And I laughed too.

As I stood there, watching their happy faces, hearing their laughter, witnessing the water dripping harmlessly from the boy’s face, I discovered something about God.  God is a lot like that boy in the sponge throwing game.  And I’m a lot like that girl.  

God calls to me, “Come closer to me.  Come near.”

And I stand there with my wet sponge, with all my stuff and junk, worries and flaws.  I stand far back and wonder if he’ll be mad if I throw all this stuff at him.  And he’s a lot bigger than me.  He’s God, after all.

Yet, all the while, God is beckoning me, urging me, telling me that he can handle any wet sponges that I throw in his face.  He calls me, with my sponge in hand, to come as near as I can.  To go ahead and throw my stuff at him.  He’s not fazed by it.

“Come near to God and he will come near to you,” says James 4:8 (NIV).  And again in Matthew 11:28 (NIV), Jesus says,  “Come to me all you who are weary and burdened …,” all you who are carrying around worries, faults, sins, concerns, mistakes, fears, troubles, like heavy wet sponges.  Come close.  God’s not mad, or disgusted, or scared.  

Instead, he’s calling us to come as close as we can.  To bring our wet sponges because He can handle whatever we throw at him.  And in the end, when we are near him, we just might end up with our sponges gone and laughter lighting our face.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Telling the Truth is More Than You Think!

Hi Friends,

Next Monday I'll be talking at MOPS about friendship - being a good friend, having meaningful friendships.

It's funny, because as an introvert, being good at friendship isn't something that comes naturally.  It's something that God has had to be teaching me, showing me, tapping me on the shoulder and saying, "Hey, you can't just hole up in your office and ignore the world.  I've put too many incredible, wonderful people in your life for you to ignore!"  So, this week, I'm thinking about friendship.  And I'm thinking about what really makes a good friend.

Kindness, yes.  Loyalty, yes.  Someone that helps you to become more like Christ, believe more, trust more, grow deeper in him.  Someone you enjoy being with.  Someone who helps you laugh. Someone who is there for you when you need her.

Someone who is honest.

Ouch.  Am I that kind of friend?

Now don't get me wrong, I am 100% committed to truth.  Jesus says, "The truth will set you free," and I believe him.  I live by that ... mostly.

But this week, as I'm thinking and preparing and pondering and evaluating my own weaknesses, I see that friendship means vulnerability.  And vulnerability means means letting friends know how I'm really doing.  It means communicating the truth about me.

It means letting go of "I'm fine" and letting others in to my struggles.  Because I think that's really the key to good friendships.  In John 15:15 Jesus says, "I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master's business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you."  To Jesus, being a friend means communicating.  It means opening up.  It means sharing your heart.

I'm reminded of this story that I posted last year.  God taught me this lesson then, and he's reminding me now.  I don't want to be found dead at the bottom of the cage.  Instead, I want to tell the truth ... and be a good friend.

It happened like this:

It was a big, fat lie.  I smiled as I said it.  And what’s worse, I told it in the church foyer.  

A friend touched my shoulder.  “How’re you doing?”

“Fine.  Thanks.”  

She nodded and made her way into the sanctuary.

Fine.  I’m doing fine.  I’ve told that lie a hundred times, maybe a thousand.  But it was never bigger than that morning.  Two days before I’d found out that the baby I was carrying had died.  And in two days more I was scheduled for surgery to remove the empty egg sac that was still in me.  So, I was not fine. Not at all.

I wouldn’t have thought twice about my lie except when I came home that day I found one of my lovebirds dead at the bottom of the cage.  I trembled as I backed away and called to my husband.  “Bryan, can you come in here?”

He walked over and stared at the bird.  “What happened?”

I shrugged my shoulders.  “I dunno.  It looked fine yesterday.”

“How did it go from fine to dead in a day?”  Bryan put on a gardening glove, reached in the cage, and removed the dead bird.  “Well, there’s no marks on it.  Feels a little skinny though.  You’d better look in that book we got on lovebirds.”

I shivered and turned away.  

“Are you all right?”

“I’m fine.”  I said the lie again, softer this time, quieter.

“Fine, huh?”  Bryan put the dead bird in a box, then waited as I retrieved the book about lovebirds and flipped through the pages.  

I read about various diseases and sick birds.  Then, I stopped and looked up.  “Wow, look at this.”  I pointed to a paragraph in the book.  “It says here that a lovebird will hide its sickness until it’s about to die.  You can’t tell it’s even sick unless you weigh it twice a week.”

Bryan nodded.  “It’s too bad.  If we’d have known, we could have tried to do something.”  He tossed the book onto the table.  “Too late now, of course.”

I sank into a chair and stared at the one bird left in the cage.  “If only we’d known . . .”  It was then that my lie came back to me.  Fine.  Thanks.  I was no different than that foolish lovebird.  By instinct, I, too, hid my emotional and spiritual sickness.  Hid it so well that no one would know I needed help.

Perhaps that’s why the Bible says, “Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to his neighbor, for we are all members of one body.”  (Ephesians 4:25, NIV)  I’d always thought that verse meant I shouldn’t try to manipulate others with my words.  And it does mean that.  But maybe it also means that I must open myself to fellow believers.  I need to allow them into my life with truth and honesty.  I have to be vulnerable if I am to be healed.  

And if I’m not, I may find myself, one day soon, face down at the bottom of my cage.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

What a Crayon Box Taught Me About God

Hi Friends,

In these past weeks, I've been pondering how past events have affected my view of God and His love.  How has my perception of His love been skewed by the imperfect love I've experienced from others?  Well, as I've been thinking (and clearing out a room in Bryan's office), I came across an old box of crayons that I'd happened on before.  Last time I found them, Bethany was with me.  And what I learned then was something I needed to hear again.  I needed to be reminded that the love of Jesus is not fickle. It's not wavering.  It is, at all times, faithful.  And that makes a world of difference in everyday life.

It happened like this:
“Look, Mom, crayons!”  
I lifted my head out of bag of toys that I was unpacking to see my five-year-old daughter clutching a narrow yellow and green box in her hand. 
Bethany opened the lid.  “Ew, but they’re so old.  Yuck.”
I laughed and tossed a doll back into the bag.  “Bring those here.”
She sidestepped around a bag of stuffed animals and hopped over a box of craft supplies.  “Here.”  She handed me the old, dilapidated box.  “I don’t want them.”
I grinned.  “That’s okay, because they’re not yours.”
She frowned.  “Then whose are they?”
I ran my finger over the top of the box and paused over a name written in brown ink.  “They’re mine.”  And they had been, for a long time.  A box of 64 crayons, their ends dulled with use, the paper torn, but all still intact.  
Bethany looked at the box and pointed to the name.  “But your name’s not Lynette.”
“Nope, but they’re my crayons all the same.  I got them when I was in the fourth grade.”
Bethany tapped her finger on the box top.  “But that’s still not your name.”
“Well, let me tell you . . .”
She sat down and crossed her legs.  Probably because she knew a story was coming.  She was right.
I sat down too, and placed the crayons on my lap.  “See, here’s my name.”  I pointed to the “Marlo” printed in dark purple along the edge.  “My friend Lisa gave me these crayons as a gift.”
“But your name’s crossed out.”
“I know.  About a week after she gave them to me, she got mad at me and gave them to Lynette instead.  See, here’s Lynette’s name right after mine.”
“It’s crossed out there too.”
“I know.”
“Then your name’s crossed out again.”
“That’s weird.” Bethany shook her head.  “So why was your friend mad at you?”
“I don’t know.  I didn’t know then either, but Lisa was that way.  When she got mad at me, she’d give the crayons to Lynette and cross out my name.  I’d come in from recess and the crayons would be gone, right out of my desk.  Then a few days later, they’d be back again, with Lynette’s name crossed out and mine written again.”
Bethany giggled.  “How many time did it happen?”
“Well, let’s see.”  I counted the crossed out names.  “Six times.  She forgot to write my name the last time.”  
Bethany crossed her arms.  “She wasn’t a very good friend.”
I smiled.
Bethany shrugged.  “Jesus is my friend.  We learned that last week at Sunday School.”  She turned around and returned to her box across the room.
I grinned as I watched her go back to her unpacking.  She had stated it so simply.  Jesus was her friend.  And he was mine too.  I opened the crayon box and looked down at the dilapidated crayons.  Today, they made for a funny story, but back then, it had hurt to have a fickle friend.
Jesus wasn’t like that.  And yet, sometimes, even now as an adult, I acted as if he were.  Secretly, I wondered if one day, without me understanding why, he would just reject me?  Would he call me "not good enough" to be his friend?  If I failed, would he turn away and cross out my name from his "favored" list?  In the face of loss and grief, I asked, “What have I done wrong to deserve this?”  It was as if Jesus was like the little girl Lisa.  
But God doesn’t get mad at me and take away his grace.  He doesn’t sneak in and steal away his gifts on a whim.  Even when I fail, or withdraw, or doubt ... his love remains.
In 2 Timothy 2:13, Paul says, “if we are faithless, he will remain faithful, for he cannot disown himself.” (NIV)  
God has given me his grace, his love, his promise that nothing shall separate me from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 8:39).  
God loves me.  He won’t cross my name off the box.  And he won’t take my crayons away.  I need to live in the joy, confidence, and gratefulness of that amazing truth.

How can I (and you!) live more fully in the truth of God's breath-taking love today??

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Lessons from Preschool

Hi Friends,

Well, Jayden had his very first day of school at Northminster Preschool, 3's class.  He loved it!  Though it seems like just yesterday when he was running around in diapers and onesies.  And now he's a "big boy"going off to school for the first time.  How did that happened??  How did he grow from a toddler in Pampers to the young man making his way over to the Lego table all by himself?

As I think about it, I realize he's grown day by day, hour by hour, with a lot of instruction, a lot of discipline, and a lot of meals.  And some of it he hasn’t liked one bit.

Here's some examples:  He wanted to hit his sisters when they took his toys.  We taught him he couldn’t hit.  He wanted to go to church in just a diaper.  We told him he had to keep his pants on.  He didn’t want to eat healthy food.  We gave it to him anyway.  He “no like” going to bed.  We tucked him in and turned out the light all the same.  And he especially didn’t like to use the potty chair.  Going in the diaper was just so much easier.  But we kept at it until he was able to keep his big-boy pants dry all day and all night.

We did it because we knew he couldn’t stay a baby forever.  We knew this day would come, when he’d be going to school where you couldn’t hit, you couldn’t grab, you had to keep your pants on and your underwear dry.  Now, after a lot of work, he was ready.

And he was happy!

Which makes me wonder ... if I use things Jayden doesn't like to get him ready for the adventure of preschool, is God also using things I don’t like in my life to discipline me too, to train me for a new adventure that I don’t yet know about?  Are the things that don’t taste so sweet making me strong?  Are the lessons that seemed so hard preparing me for my “first day of preschool” where diapers aren’t allowed?

I'm reminded of Hebrews 12:5b-6 (NIV):  “My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline, and do not lose heart when he rebukes you, because the Lord disciplines those he loves...”

Even though I prefer the easy life, even though I would rather swallow only things that I enjoy and get my own way, God knows that I have to grow up.  So he trains me, disciplines me, shows me how to grow, so that when I walk into a new classroom, I can straighten my shoulders, grip his hand in mine, and say with a voice that may tremble just a little, “Yes, I’m ready.”

So, what did I learn from Jayden's first day of preschool?   I learned that I wanted to be like him.  I wanted to be a “big girl” who could bravely go into new situations and do what’s right.  I wanted to be the type of kid who holds God’s hand, even when I’m shaking, and walks forward.  I wanted to be ready to run and play, sing and hear stories.  I want to be prepared ... and happy ...  in every new adventure with God!