Welcome to the blog of author Marlo Schalesky!

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Finding What Matters...

Hi Friends,

So, I just got done with my yearly mammogram and got an email from a friend who's just been diagnosed with breast cancer and will be having surgery tomorrow morning.  This weekend I taught at a writers seminar where the original keynote speaker (wonderful writer, friend, and woman-of-God Ethel Herr) wasn't able to speak because she'd graduated to heaven from cancer this year.

And so I've been thinking about what really matters in life, what is worth spending our precious time on, where I need (and want) to focus my limited life and energies.

Here's my conclusion:  LOVE.

--Loving God will all my heart, all my soul, all my strength in whatever circumstances come my way.  I want to bask in His love and love Him in return.  I want to live my life out of the center of knowing in my deepest soul that I His beloved and He is mine.  I want to rejoice in Him, worship Him, live every moment in Him, aware of Love.

--Loving others in all their quirkiness, faults, and beauty.  I want to love like God does.  I want to see others as He sees them.  I want to enjoy the wonder that God has placed in my kids, my husband, my friends, my family, and even those who are strangers.

I want less worry and more worship.
I want less frustration and more laughter.
I want less frantic hurrying and more moments of wonder.
I want less irritation and more grace.
I want less me and more God.

I want to sing:  "Lord, we stand amazed in your presence, astounded by your mercy and love ... your grace for me is always enough."  (for the full song see:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ECwIPkF3HYo)

So, may you live in the fullness of His love today, remembering what matters, and basking in His wonder ... no matter the circumstances!

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Finding Peace in the Hurry Hurry Hurry of Life

Hi Friends,

It's been a busy few weeks here with too little time to stop and breathe.  And I've been noticing the results - frazzled nerves, a lot less patience, a lot more frustration.

So in the midst of it all, I started to watch the rain hitting my windows earlier this week, and I remembered this story.

I’m so tired . . . I can’t do it all. The words limped through my mind as I leaned against the headrest in my Honda Pilot. Rain drummed on the front windshield, accompanied by the steady thump of the wipers.

“Are you all right over there?”

I glanced over at my husband in the driver’s seat. “I dunno.”

“Just relax. We’ll be there in a minute.”

I tried to relax, but the baby started fussing in back seat. Then our 4-year-old began complaining, again, about his seatbelt. “Moooommmmm, it’s too tight.” “Waaaaa…”

I tried to focus on the swish-swosh of the wipers, the patter-smack of the rain. But the kids were louder.

It was supposed to be a quick task. Just drop Bryan off at the shop to pick up his truck, then zoom back home. A few minutes to rest on the way there, then a short drive back, and get to work. But so far, I hadn’t managed a minute of rest. And it wasn’t all the kids’ fault. There were too many thoughts crashing around in my mind. An impossible to-do list, deadlines looming, diapers to change, messages to answer, bills to pay, laundry stacked a mile high, bits and pieces of life scattered about, all shouting for my attention.

It was too much. But that was life. Things had to be done. And I had to do them. But how? My gaze drifted to the side window. There, dozens of raindrops raced in herky-jerky motions across the glass. My eyes followed a group along the jagged, horizontal paths. A moment later, those drops flew off behind us, only to be replaced by others in an endless, useless race.

There was something sad, something awful, about how the raindrops shuddered across the glass. They reminded me of something. No, not something. Someone. Me. Just like them, I too was driven in a frantic rush from one side of the day to the other, often accomplishing little more than moving across the distance.

I pressed my fingertips against the pane and watched as a puff of mist outlined my hand. How could I stop it? The raindrops had no choice. Did I? It didn’t seem like it, and yet . . .

The answer came quickly in the form of a scripture verse I had memorized years before. “Be still, and know that I am God,” God said in Psalm 46:10 (NIV).

I frowned. Be still?! Sure, it sounded good, but honestly, how could that verse apply to me? I had two small, busy children, a business to run, papers due, and writing deadlines looming. There was no time to be still! But what if there was, somehow, someway? What if one of those racing raindrops just paused for a moment on the glass?

As if to answer my question, the Pilot slowed to a stop at a red light. Not one, but all the raindrops shivered then paused. In one instant, they glimmered like a dozen oval diamonds. No more racing. No more frenzy. Then, the light turned green. The Honda picked up speed. But the raindrops didn’t resume their helter-skelter dash. Instead those drops, the ones that paused, made a graceful swoop to the edge of the glass.

I stared at the window as new raindrops resumed the crazed race. It was as if nothing changed. But something had. I’d seen the raindrops that paused. And I knew that somehow I had to pause too. I may still have to get from one side of the glass to the other, but I didn’t have to do it all at once. I could spare a quiet moment in the midst of chaos, a breath of blessed silence, a time to stop the hurry and place my heart, my life, my to-do list, squarely in the hands of God. I needed to stop, even if briefly, to remember who I am, and more importantly, who He is. To breathe a word of praise into the noise of the day. I needed to simply, sometimes, be still.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Warm Bodies Movie and Finding True Life

Hi Friends,

I went to see the romantic-comedy-zombie movie, Warm Bodies, with my 13-year-old daughter last night.  Very cute movie, enjoyed it a lot.  And of course, it got me thinking about God and Finding True Life in Real Life.

In the movie, the story is told through the perspective of R, a zombie who longs for life.  He and the others have a semblance of life - they can move, think in a limited fashion, get from place to place (if slowly!).    They look like they have life, but they're dead.

R plays records, collects things, and yes, eats brains to try to capture a bit of real life.  But these things fail him.  Only love brings him true life.  Only love can change him, make him alive.  And that love, that life, is contagious.  Only it can cure him ...

And that is very essence of the good news of Jesus in our own lives.  We have a semblance of life.  We walk, we talk (a little), but we're the walking dead.  We're ruled by the drives of our "undead" bodies.  And we long for real life.  We grasp onto glimpses of it.  We play our music, we try to remember what we were made for by God.  But we can't.  We moan and stumble.  And then God, in His incredible love for us, breaks into our dead lives.

His love gives us life, real life, true life.  He changes us, transforms us, makes us new.  He gives us what we long for.

The Bible says in Ephesians 2:1-5, "As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world ... All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh and following its desires and thoughts...But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved!"

We are new creations, true living people, because of His love for us!  It's not just any love that saves us, that remakes us, cures us ... it's Love Himself.  The One who IS love.  

And that is a gift, a wonder, an amazing, breath-taking, incredible, beautiful fact that should make all the deadness in our hearts disappear.  It should make us sing ... and come fully to life.  

We don't have to be zombies anymore  ... because God loves you.  Loves you enough to sacrifice himself so that you may have Life and have it abundantly (John 10:10).  He offers life, real life, through his love.  How can we be content to wander the airports of our lives with pale skin, unbeating hearts, groaning lips, unable to connect with others, living the lives of the undead dead.  

God, his love alone, sets us free.  And we live in full color, in full life, when we bask in His love, when we live in it and allow it to make us new, make us whole, make us alive, transform us fully!

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Tip from a Tree about Growing Deeper with God

Hi Friends,

Last night I met with a small group of women to talk about growing deeper in God.  As I left our meeting, I was filled with a sense of wonder at how God had been among us, wooing us to him, giving us a new vision of his amazing love.

And as I was thanking God for this group of women who want to grow closer to God together, I was reminded of a story from a few years ago when Bryan and I were planting a cedar tree that we'd gotten for Christmas.  I was reminded that I grow best when I'm planted.  

It happened like this:
Bryan’s brows furrowed as he glared at me from over the top of the shovel’s handle.  “Marlo, you’ve got to decide!”
I balled up the pair of gardening gloves in my hand and stared at the five-foot tall cedar tree drooping in the pot before me.  “I just don’t know.”
Bryan jabbed his finger toward two places in the yard.  “There, or there.  Pick one.”
“Neither place is perfect, though.”  One spot just seemed a little too close to the walkway, the other too far from the picture window.  Either would be okay, but still . . .
Bryan sighed and closed his eyes.  His jaw tensed.  “If we don’t plant it, it’s going to die.  The tips of the branches are already turning brown.  So,” his eyes opened again and bored into me, “do you want it here, or over there?”  
The shovel clanked on the ground.  “I’m getting a glass of lemonade.  I’ll be back when you decide.”
I threw him a small smile and nodded.  A few feet away, last year’s tree, a beautiful green Sequoia, flourished in the rich soil.  No brown patches there.  And no pot either.  But the cedar was another story. We’d bought it way back at Christmastime, and there it had sat, waiting to be planted.  Only a couple feet separated it from the Sequoia.  It got the same water, the same sunlight.  But it wasn’t enough.  The difference was obvious.  One tree was green and growing.  The other limp and tinged with brown.  Bryan was right.  I had to stop looking for perfect and get that poor tree in the ground.
Slowly, I slipped on my gloves, picked up the shovel, and walked over to the spot a little too close to the walkway.  As I pressed the shovel’s tip into the ground, I heard Bryan’s voice behind me.  “Finally!”
I glanced back and saw him grinning.  He reached for the shovel.  “Here, give me that.  You can have the lemonade.”
I took the glass and settled into a lawn chair while Bryan dug the hole deeper.  As I sat there, something about the scene tickled my memory.  Then it came to me.  The tree planting process was very much like the weeks of church shopping we had done when we first moved to our new home.  Then, too, I had struggled to decide where to go when no church seemed perfect.  At the time, I thought it was easier to try this congregation for a week or two, then that one, then another, without having to put down roots anywhere.  After all, I was getting weekly sunshine and water.  Who needed to commit?  But just like the potted cedar, after a while my edges started to turn brown.  It wasn’t until we put down roots in a church that I really started to grow.  
Romans 12:10 (NIV) says to “be devoted to one another in brotherly love.” Devoted, committed.  Not here today, gone tomorrow.  Not sitting in a pot, poised to move quickly from one place to the next.  Instead, God calls me to be planted firmly in the place He has for me, so I can truly care for those around me, and they can care for me.  
Within a week of being planted, our cedar tree began growing taller and putting out new green needles.  Today, it serves as a reminder to me of the power of commitment to a certain “patch of ground” – to my particular church family.  It reminds me that my spot doesn’t need to be perfect for me to flourish.  I need sunshine and water, but I also need a solid piece of ground.