Welcome to the blog of author Marlo Schalesky!

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Of Zombies and Facing Fears

Hi Friends,

This week, for Halloween (and in honor of the zombie movie we watched and discussed in our community group this week), I thought I'd share Jayna's spooky story from first grade.  Enjoy! And use this as a reminder that sometimes the things that chase us in life aren't as scary as we think they are. Maybe we just need to turn around and face them … with God at our side and in our center!

Jayna's story:

The Zombie Follows Me

A long time ago there was a zombie.  The zombie loved to sleep in my blankets.  It ate my food.  Then I ran down the stairs.  The zombie followed me.  I ran faster.  It ran faster too.  I stopped.  “What do you want?”  It held up my cereal bowl.  “Milk, please.”

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Raccoons are NOT Cute!

Hi Friends,

Well, the raccoons are back at our house.  They're washing their hands in the cats' water, trying to sneak in the rec room to eat the dog food, and making pests of themselves again.

The "messies" are back too.  A mess in the basement, a mess in the critter room, a mess in the girls' bathroom ... with company coming and a community group party here this coming weekend.

So, I guess the raccoons are here at just the right time to remind me how to handle life (or how NOT to handle it) when it gets messy at just the wrong time.

Here's what a learned from raccoons just a few years ago:

A Lesson from a Raccoon

The night dripped with a strange sort of silence.  The breeze barely brushed against the panes of my bedroom window.  No cars passed outside.  No sirens sounded.  No dogs barked.
Then it came.  A mysterious scraping on the outside deck.  A rattle.  A hiss.  And the groan of wood dragged over the planks.
I nudged my husband, Bryan.  “Did you hear that?”
The scraping came again, this time with an eerie creaking near our cat’s feeder. Something thumped. 
Bryan rolled over.  “It’s just the cat.”
“That is not the cat.”  I sat up.
The quiet was broken by a loud crash.
Bryan jumped up.  “Where’s the flashlight.” 
I handed it to him, swung out of bed, and threw on my robe. 
Together, we hurried to the door that led to the deck.  Bryan flipped on the flashlight and shined the light into the darkness.
An animal-shaped shadow scuttled away from the beam.
I turned on the porch light and tossed open the door.  The food dispenser lay sideways with cat food strew all over the wood planks beneath.  I took the flashlight from Bryan’s hand and aimed it toward the corner of the deck. 
The creature was still there.  A masked bandit.  The door slammed behind me.
The raccoon turned and sat up on its haunches.  Then, it hissed and bared its teeth. 
I grimaced.  Raccoons were supposed to be cute and loveable.  I even had a fluffy raccoon stuffed animal, complete with dark eyes, little mask, and tiny hands with opposable thumbs.  But this creature crouched before me was anything but cute and loveable.  It was ugly.  It was nasty.  And at that moment, I’d have been glad to never see another raccoon again.
I flashed the light at it one more time, stomped my feet, and waved my arms.
It gave one last hiss then scuttled off into the dark.
            “Well, that was awful.”  Bryan’s voice sounded behind me.
            I turned and wrinkled my nose.  “I think I hate raccoons.”
            “I think I do, too.”
The next day, I put the raccoon out of my mind, until I again heard a strange silence.  This time, the quietness came from the playroom where my four-year-old twins were supposed to be cleaning up toys.  No little voices whispered.  No little feet pattered.  No sound came from the room at all.  And that was never a good sign.
I hurried into the room, and sure enough, instead of cleaning up, every last game was opened and all the pieces were mixed together in the center of the carpet. 
My face turned hot.  My fists clenched.  And then I let them have it.  “What do you think you’re doing?  I told you to clean up.  Look at this mess!”  I rattled.  I hissed.  I bared my teeth. 
My girls’ eyes grew round.  They backed away.
And then it hit me.  Who’s the ugly raccoon now?
I shivered. 
God gave me a gift of words, just like he gave the raccoon the gift of opposable thumbs.  But just like the raccoon, I was using my gift to take from others.  I may not have been stealing cat food, but I was certainly stealing their joy.  And that was just as ugly as a raccoon’s hiss. 
I took a deep breath.  “Please clean that up before community group tonight.”  Then, I left the room.
I could hear the clink of game pieces being put away as I started toward the kitchen.  I shook my head.  All I had to do was ask, but instead I had chosen to use my gifts, my words, my voice, to tear down instead of build up. 
Ephesians 4:29 (NIV) says, “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.”  I don’t need to hiss and become ugly when others don’t do what I want.  I don’t need to use my abilities to attack.
Instead, God wants me to use the power of words, use the gifts He has given to me, to help others, to give, to serve, to be kind and caring.  I don’t want to be like a raccoon – loveable only in theory, but ugly in reality.  The real me needs to be kind, thoughtful, encouraging, and giving. 
From now on, I want to use my gifts to bless others and help them, or else someone may just chase me away into the dark.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

When You Don't Make the Cut ...

Hi Friends,

Well, amid coming down with a crummy cold, Bryan being away at a men's retreat, and 6 kids to take care of, I finished my revisions for Wrestling with Wonder and sent them in to my editor.  Now as I wait for the next round of editing, I'm thinking about a couple things that didn't make the "cut."

Here's a poem that won't be included:
When hope lies in tattered ruins
And faith is on its knees
God's love embraces me
Until the darkness flees.

And a bit of prose:
When God's questions form Job 38 echoed through Mary's life, she discovered the answers would go far beyond anything she ever imagined, anything she could have ever dreamed.  The gates of death would be shown to her, the gates of deepest darkness . . .

And what I learned from them:
Nothing was wrong with either the poem or the prose.  They were deficient, less than, weaker, stupid, useless, not-good-enough.  Instead, they just didn't fit with what I was doing.  They weren't needed where I had them ... but they are used elsewhere.

And I think that's a good lesson for me, for all of us, when we face rejection, when we aren't included, when we feel "cut out."  Maybe the place we were trying to be isn't the place God wants us to be.  Maybe he has something else for us.

We aren't less or deficient or not-good-enough, we are just being pointed somewhere else.  We aren't needed in chapter 13, but we are needed in a blog post about finding God's perfect place meant just for us.

So, when you're feeling left out, remember that God has a plan, a purpose, a place especially for you.  Seek HIM and not that place that you thought would make you feel special.  Seek his vision, seek his truth, trust in him.  He will not leave you.  He will not forsake you.  He will not cut you out of the wonder of his special love for you.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

I Don't Know . . . How Well Do You Live with Mystery?

Hi Friends,

The revisions for Wrestling with Wonder, a Transformational Journey through the Life of Mary, are due next Tuesday, and I'm diligently working on adding one last chapter (on the shepherds' visit to the manger) before time runs out.

I'm talking about how our God is a God of mystery, and not often a God of explanations ... even though I like explanations.  I like it when everything makes sense and I have it all figured out.  But sometimes God asks me to live in the tension of mystery.

Are you living with mystery now?  How does mystery settle in your soul?

Here's my rough-draft blurb from the intro of my new chapter.  See what you think . . .

Chapter 5:

I Don’t Know.
Scary words.  I don’t like to speak them.  I don’t like to write them.  I don’t like them at all.  Instead, I much prefer:
I know.
I understand.
It makes sense.
I have the answers.
Too bad God doesn’t agree.  Too bad the reality of life often is:
I don’t know.
I don’t understand.
It doesn’t make sense.
I don’t have the answers.
I cringe away from admissions like that.  I want my world to make sense.  I want explanations and reasons and a carefully constructed theology where all the i’s are diligently dotted and all the t’s carefully crossed.
I don’t want mystery.
            And yet God is a God of mystery.  He often refuses to explain himself and instead woos me to that uncomfortable in-between place where things don't make sense and I don’t have it all figured out.  
He beckons me there, and asks me not to understand, but instead to ponder.
To question.
To think.
To wonder.
I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised.  After all, this is the God who calls me to live in the tension between faith and works, between a loving God and a broken world, between justice and mercy.  He calls me to wrestle with my questions, dance with my doubts, and be okay with not understanding all the whys and wherefores and what-does-it-all-means.
He calls me to ponder as he offers no easy answers, no pat theologies, no simple explanations to put on the bumper stickers of my life.
He beckons me to live with mystery -- the mystery of a Messiah in a manger.
Mary pondered the mystery of her God when scruffy shepherds showed up looking for an infant lying where the animals feed.  She pondered as they told a strange story of singing angels who visited not a newborn messiah, but a bunch of sheep-herders in the fields.  She pondered as they spoke.  And she treasured the truths she could not yet understand.