Welcome to the blog of author Marlo Schalesky!

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Hurts, Hardships, and Falling Branches

Hi Friends,
It's been the strangest week.  First, the two huge branches fell from our tree.  Someone could have been killed.  No one was.  Then, Bryan tumbled down a flight of stairs.  He could have broken his neck.  He didn't.  He just broke his arm.  Jayna got stepped on by Joelle's horse.  She could have broken her foot.  She didn't.  It was just a little sore.  Bryan's horse, Smokey, caught his foot in the feeder.  He could have broken his leg.  He didn't.  After a lot of hard work from Bethany and I, we set him free.  He's fine (the feeder, however, is not!).  Add all that to a couple close calls on the freeway, and it's got me thinking about how life just ain't easy.  It's often filled with trials and hardships, tragedies and close calls, mess ups and moments that don't go as planned.
And it got me thinking about a question that a reader asked me awhile back.  She asked if I thought that hard times, tragedy, or simply things-going-wrong was a sign of God's punishment.
I said no.  
I also said:  
And here’s what I answered:
When I think of the great men of faith in the Bible, I find people who were both close to God and also faced hardship and pain – not as punishment or because of God's displeasure, but because that was part of what God had called them to in their journey with Him. Abraham, the father of faith, faced infertility. David was chased by a crazy king. Peter was hung upside down on a cross. Paul was beaten and thrown again and again into prison before being finally martyred. John, named the disciple Christ loved, was exiled. And those examples don’t even include prophets like Hosea, Jeremiah, Habakkuk. 
And what happened to Christ Himself? He was beaten, mocked, and executed on a Roman cross. 
So, these examples and many, many more in the Bible tell me that hardships, tragedies, and pain are not a sign of God's punishment but rather are to be expected in a life lived with God. Suffering comes with the territory.
But that's not the end of the story.  The Biblical examples also tell me that every tragedy, every misfortune, every hardship, can be transformed. It may still hurt and be oh-so-hard, but it need not be purposeless and futile. When God weaves the tapestry of our lives, some of the colors are those of pain and difficulties, but if we let him do the weaving, the picture can be one of breathtaking beauty.
So, given that, I see two big dangers in thinking that hardships are a form of punishment from God. First, such a view causes us to focus on ourselves and the question of “why” rather than focus on the “who” of who God is and how He is with us in the midst of our tragedies and pain. And second, the “punishment” view causes us to turn away from the very one who is there to help and strengthen us in the face of hardship. Instead of looking to God to help us, we look at Him as an adversary, as the One causing the pain. The result is that we become estranged from God just when He is seeking to transform our pain into something that will strengthen us and make us new.
In the epilogue of my 2007 novel, Veil of Fire, the hermit says, “I am . . . loved by God even through fire. Loved too much for him to leave me in my pain. And I know that even though I will always carry the scars, inside I am healed of wounds far more deep, far more ugly than those the fire caused . . . I am made new.” And that is what I think is the main goal of God in our hurts, our hardships, our firestorms. He’s not looking to punish us; instead He wants to transform us and make us new.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Amazing Death ... Really!

Hi Friends,

Today I am writing chapter 13 of Wrestling with Wonder, my new book that looks at the character of God though the journey of Mary, Jesus’ mother.  Well, this is the chapter on Jesus’ death.  Can you imagine what it must have been like for Mary to be there at the foot of the cross, look up, and see her son dead there?

What a horrific moment!  And yet . . .

We face moments of death in our lives too.  We face horrific things.  And yet . . .

Here are some thoughts I’ve been pondering as I write this chapter:


I tremble as I type the word.


We’ve all tasted its bitter fruit.  Death of a loved one, death of a dream, death of a relationship ... the death of our hopes and all the promises of a bright future.

With Mary, we’ve all knelt in the darkness at the foot of a cross.  

We’ve all wept and shuddered, knowing death has come near.  
And then it arrives.  The darkness is complete, the is curtain torn.

It is finished.  

And yet, God has only just begun to change the world, our world.  He has only begun to change us.  And we discover that death is not the end we once believed.  It is but a doorway to the transformation of our souls.  

Mary could not have seen it.  She could not have known as she looked up at her dead son, as she experienced the worst moment of her life, that this very moment was the one that would change everything.  It was the moment of inexplicable glory.  

When all was lost ... all was saved.  You were saved, I was saved, Mary herself was saved from all her sins.  This was the moment God broke through and accomplished the most amazing, wondrous, incredible, beautiful thing of all time.

Her worst moment.

His death.

The moment of amazing wonder.

How could it be? 

May you find God in new and breathtaking ways even in the moments when you face the death of a dream, a loved one, or anything you've hoped for . . .

Friday, April 12, 2013

Poems for Your Journey

Hi Friends,

I downloaded a new app yesterday that lets me read some of my old WordPerfect files.  Among them I found some poems that encouraged me on my day-to-day journey with God.  

So, if you're on a journey with God today, if you're not sure exactly where he's leading, if you're facing the dangers of life in an imperfect world, read on . . .

Where do I go from here?
I often pray
For the path seems dark
And I cannot see.
Before me is fog and confusion.
Where do I go from here?
But then I take a step,
And that one step is illuminated.
Then another.
More light.
And another.
Until the path is lit,
One step at a time.

"Take my hand, child,"
The father says, his hand extended,
As they step from the curb
To conquer the dangers of the untamed street.
"Take my hand," he says,
Because a child must not walk alone.
The perils of the street are too great.
So the father takes hold of the child's hand,
And the child knows he is loved.
"Take my hand, child,"
The Father says, His hand extended,
As I step from the curb of comfort
To conquer the dangers of a fallen world.
"Take my hand," He says,
Because a child of God must not walk alone.
The perils of sin are too great.
So the Father takes hold of my hand,
And I know I am loved.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Rebekah by Jill Eileen Smith

Hi Friends,

I wanted to tell you about a new book by my friend Jill Eileen Smith.  Compelling biblical fiction.  I think you'll enjoy it.  Here's the scoop:

by Jill Eileen Smith

4 Stars from RT Book Reviews

Can love heal the rift between two souls?

When her beloved father dies and she is left in the care of her conniving brother Laban, Rebekah knows her life has changed forever. Though she should be married by now, it’s clear that Laban is dragging his feet, waiting for a higher bride-price to line his pockets. When she is given a chance to leave her home to marry Isaac, a cousin she has never even seen, Rebekah’s hope for the future is restored. Little does she know what a wondrous and heart-wrenching journey she is beginning.

As Rebekah experiences the joy of young love and the bitterness of misunderstanding and betrayal, her resolve will be tested. When the rift between her and Isaac grows so wide it is surely too great to be mended, can she trust the God of Isaac’s father Abraham to bridge the gap?

About the author:

Jill Eileen Smith is the author of the bestselling Michal, Abigail, and Bathsheba, all part of the Wives of King David series, and of Sarai and Rebekah books 1 and 2 in the Wives of the Patriarchs series. Her writing has garnered acclaim in several contests. Her research into the lives of biblical women has taken her from the Bible to Israel, and she particularly enjoys learning how women lived in Old Testament times. Jill lives with her family in southeast Michigan.

Bonus Features:

Buy the Book:

And wherever fine books are sold.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Is it a Gift from God ... Even When It's Ugly?

Hi Friends,

Today I saw a craigslist ad for Boxer pups (no, I'm not getting a new puppy ... yet, at least ;-)).  Our Boxers died a few years ago, but in checking out the pictures of the pups in the ad, I was reminded again of what I learned when we got ours years ago.

I was particularly reminded of the gift of Cisco, who started out as an ugly white-faced pup and ended up a beautiful gift of God to me.

Here's how it happened:

"Hey, you guys want a puppy?" our friends, Steve and Angela, asked one day after church.  "They’ll be born in about a month.”
"Nah.  I got enough work to do,” I said.
Steve smiled.  “They’re boxers.”
“Boxers?  Really?"  My husband and I spun around.  We loved boxers.  But, they were hard to come by, and expensive at that, so we'd never gotten one.  
"Yeah, purebreds." Steve’s grin broadened.  "So, what do you say?”
"I’ve changed my mind.  We definitely want one!”  The words tumbled from my mouth.
In a month, right on schedule, seven little boxer puppies were born.  With hearts filled with longing, Bryan and I leaned over the litter and eyed each one.  Which would we choose?  Six were just adorable, with their little black faces and pushed in noses.  The seventh, on the other hand, was not.  An ugly pinkish-white splotch spread over his entire face, making him look more like a rat than a dog.  
"Yuck.  What happened to that one?" I said, pointing at the white-faced pup.
Angela sighed.  "We might end up having to keep that one.  I can't imagine anyone picking him."
I shrugged and studied the cute puppies.  
Bryan stepped next to me.  "Which one do you like the best?" 
"What about that one?"  I pointed to a pup with a thin white stripe up his face.
Bryan picked up the puppy and handed him to me.  "This is the one I like, too."  
Steve smiled.  "Hey, why don't you guys take two?"
"Could we?" Bryan breathed then turned to me.  "Is there another one you like?" 
"Well, let me hold me a different one and I'll see.”
Bryan headed toward the puppy pen.  
"Any one but that ugly little white faced one!" I added as Bryan reached into the pen.   
One by one I held the other five pups, but none seemed “just right.”
Finally, five weeks rolled around.  Like new parents, we gazed down at the wiggling mass of puppies.  There they all were, six little black faced cuties, and one . . . wait a minute!  There was the white faced pup, and he was the cutest of the bunch.
We brought all the little boxers out to play on the mat, and the white-faced one played with Bryan and I, licked our faces, and wagged his little nubby tail.  I couldn't resist.  We claimed our second pup.
Now, Cisco is a special blessing to me.  He snuggles with me when I’m sad, romps with me when I’m happy, and sits curled at my feet when I watch television.  Often, Bryan looks at us, shakes his head, and says, "He's definitely your dog."  And to think that I once said, "Any puppy but that ugly little white faced one."  
It makes me wonder how many gifts from God I turn my back on because they seem a little ugly at first, or aren't what I had in mind.  Maybe it's that lunch with someone who sort of bugs me, or the Bible study I just don’t have time for, or the neighborhood get-together that I feel too tired to attend.  Cisco had to turn cute before I would accept him, but other things may not become attractive until I jump in and experience them. 
Cisco has become a reminder to me to look beyond my initial reactions to see what God may have for me.  I try not to say “yuck!” too quickly, but instead remember that the ugly, white-faced puppies in my life may really be special gifts from God, sent just for me!

Monday, April 1, 2013

All in Good Time by Maureen Lang

Hi Friends,

I wanted to let you know about my friend, Maureen Lang's, new book ALL IN GOOD TIME.  Info from Maureen is below.

All in Good Time is being offered TODAY ONLY as a free ebook.  Here are the links:



Barnes and Noble

After today, it will be specially priced for a week or so.  It is available both as an ebook (with the specially short-time pricing) and also a regular paperback book (those links are below).

So, here's the scoop:

New Historical Romance from Maureen Lang, All In Good Time

And for Monday only: the e-book is free!

A Note from Maureen:
New releases are always exciting! I was just telling my husband that THIS book is my favorite, but he's noticed I say that about every new release. Well, this one really is holding a special place in my heart. I think authors, like parents with their children, love each book for certain reasons. For me, the hero in All In Good Time is my special reason. He starts out as such a curmudgeon I just couldn't wait to soften him up a bit—but for it to be convincing, it had to be handled gradually. I'd try to make him crumble and he kept doing something to shore himself up. All in good time, he'd say to me. Needless to say, he was the perfect match for my impatient heroine.

Here's a little about All In Good Time:

Dessa Caldwell has a dream, to offer refuge for fallen women. All she needs is a loan so she can open Pierson House sooner than she ever expected.

Henry Hawkins has a secret—but he also owns one of the most successful banks in Denver. He hasn’t earned that success by granting foolish loans, but when his manager gives Dessa the money she needs, Henry’s best efforts to stop it fail—and in the process the fortress he’s built around his heart begins to crumble.

But will their secrets keep them apart?

The flaws and secrets of Dessa Caldwell and Henry Hawkins may very well keep them apart . . . until they realize it’s those very flaws and secrets that make them perfect for one another.

Details about pricing:
I'm thrilled to share that Tyndale House is offering this brand new release as an absolutely free e-book download, and all you need to do to take advantage of it is to act quick! It's free only 3/31 and 4/1 - Sunday and Monday. (If you miss this short promotional time there will be special pricing all week, $2.99 for a couple of days and then 4.99 until the regular e-book pricing takes affect next Sunday at around $9.00.)

All In Good Time is available everywhere, but the special pricing is being offered for electronic copies only.

About Maureen Lang:
Maureen Lang writes stories inspired by love of history and romance. An avid reader since childhood, she started writing the stories she wanted to read. Before publication she won RWA’s Golden Heart and ACFW’s Genesis, and her published books have won the Inspirational Readers Choice Contest, a Holt Medallion, and have finaled in the Christy, Rita and Carol Awards. She lives in the Midwest with her husband, children and Labrador retriever. Visit with Maureen at www.maureenlang.com

Links to print book, to buy All In Good Time:



Barnes and Noble

Deeper Shopping

Thanks for visiting and Happy Reading!