Welcome to the blog of author Marlo Schalesky!

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Jesus Did It For You! WOW!

Hi Friends,

This week, as I'm considering what Jesus did for me - arrested, beaten, spat on, a crown of thorns crushed onto his head . . . crucified - I am filled with awe, amazed with the wonder of it.  
For me.
For you.
He died.
He rose again.
He redeemed us all.
Nothing will ever be the same again.  Because He changed everything on the cross, in the tomb.

And as I sit and ponder, I remember a story from when Bethany was a little girl.  She was about Beanie's age when it happened, just like this:

It started just like any other night.  Bethany grabbed her sea otter toy, snuggled deep into her blankets, and look up at me with smiling brown eyes.  I settled next to her and picked up the first of the bedtime stories I would read that night.  A dancing hippo shone from the book’s cover.  “I like that one,” Bethany mumbled through the two fingers she had stuck in her mouth.  
So, I read, she wiggled, and the short pile of books soon dwindled to nothing.  Then, came our favorite part of the bedtime ritual.  I reached for the Bible story book on her dresser, thinking I’d read about Zaccheus or perhaps blind Bartimaeus or the woman at the well.  
But just as my fingers touched the brightly colored surface of the book, Bethany sat up and tapped my arm.  “You tell me about Jesus tonight.  Tell me about Jesus on the cross.”
“Ahhhh,” I murmured as I turned from the dresser and tucked the blankets around Bethany’s chin.  “Jesus on the cross.”
“Please, Mommy.”
I smiled down at her.  Then, I reached over, dimmed the light, and began.  I told her about how the soldiers hit Jesus, and hurt him, and spat on him, and pushed an awful crown of thorns on his head.  I told her about how they made him carry his own cross up to the hill called Golgotha, and how they laid him on the cross and spread out his arms, and nailed him there.  
“Did it hurt very much?” she asked, just as she always did whenever I got to this place in the story.
I brushed the hair back from her forehead with my fingertips.  “Very much.”
“They not supposed to do that.”  She frowned.
“But they did.”
“And then what happened?”
My voice grew quiet.  “They lifted the cross high in the air, and the sky turned black.”  
“Oooo,” she breathed.
“Then, Jesus died, and the curtain in the temple was torn in two from top to bottom.”
“That’s sad, Mommy.”  She clutched her sea otter toy even tighter.
I nodded, then told her about how they took Jesus down from the cross and put him in the tomb for one day . . . two days . . . three days.  
She waved her fingers in the air and counted the days with me.  
“Then –“ I paused.
Bethany caught her breath.
“The ground shook.”  I rattled her headboard.  “The stone rolled away, and—” I stopped.
As always, Bethany finished the story in her loudest voice. “Him not die anymore! Him risen!”
We laughed together as I hugged her and whispered in her ear, “And that is the most wonderful, incredible, amazing, important thing that has ever happened in the whole wide world from the beginning of time until now.”
Her eyes grew wide. She snuggled deeper into her blankets, and said the one word that I’ll never forget.  “Wow.”
Wow.  And somehow that simple word stuck in my heart and I saw the story of Jesus through her eyes.  I saw the wonder, the mystery, the beauty.  I saw how much it cost for God to make me His own.  
And in that moment, God rekindled in me the wow of the gospel.  Suddenly, it was new, amazing, and wonderful.  How had I forgotten the awe?  How had it become “old news?”
I laid back on the bed next to her and looked at the ceiling.  “Wow,” I whispered.  “Wow, wow, wow.”
Bethany sighed and rubbed her small hand over my arm.  “You tell me again, Mommy?  Tell me about Jesus on the cross.”
“Of course, sweetheart.  I’ll tell you as often as you want to hear it.”
And I do, with a silent prayer that neither of us will ever forget the “wow” of what Jesus did for us on the cross.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Who are You? in the Easter Story

Hi Friends,

This week I’ve been writing Chapter 10 of my new book, Wrestling with Wonder, about the arrest, beating, and sentencing of Jesus.  As I’ve been writing, I’ve been thinking about who I am in the Easter story.

And I’ve discovered that I am many people in the story:

--I am Judas, who betrays him with a kiss.  I say I love him, but then I don’t represent him as I should.  My actions, my sin, take him to the cross.  He loves me anyway.

--I am Peter, who claims he doesn’t know Jesus because he’s afraid.  He loves God, but he succumbs to peer pressure.  Jesus forgives him, restores him, makes him whole.  

--I am Barabbas, a sinner set free when Jesus is condemned.  I don’t deserve it.  I can’t hardly believe it, but all my sins are forgiven and I am free of all that binds me because Jesus, in his innocence, is sentenced to die for me.

--I am Mary, kneeling in sorrow at the foot of the cross, unable to grasp the depth of what it means that the Messiah hangs there.  Not knowing that in this darkest hour I am being transformed and God’s will is being done.

--I am the thief, asking Jesus to remember me when he gets to his Kingdom.

--I am the soldier, whispering in awe, “Surely this is the Son of God.”

--I am his disciple, waiting, wondering ... trembling with fear and wonder as the whole world is changed in a single moment, as darkness covers the sky, as the curtain is torn is two forever, as I am redeemed.

I am his.  May I never forget the wonder of what he did for me . . .

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Finding a Heart of Worship

Hi Friends,

If you come to my house when Jayden's home, you'll leave with two things:  A stack of carefully-crafted drawings and a fistful of "fowlers" picked from our yard.  Because at four years old, that boy loves to give to others what he loves most - and that's drawings and wildflowers.  And he gives wildly, freely, joyously, abundantly.

He gives with a heart of worship.

He gives when he's feeling a little down.  He gives when he's happy.  He gives when everything doesn't go his way.

It doesn't matter what the circumstances are - he draws his drawings, his picks his flowers, and he gives them to those he loves ... which is pretty much everyone.

And in doing so, he challenges me to do the same.  He calls me to worship God in all circumstances by bringing him my wildflowers and my drawings, no matter if I'm sad or happy, fearful or fulfilled.

Jayden calls me to worship God with all I am, all I love ... with joy, with abandon, with abundance on those days when the sun is shining, life is beautiful, and I'm caught up in the wonder of God's love for me.  And he calls me to worship with all I am, all I love, with joy, abandon, and abundance when life is rainy, things aren't the way I hoped and prayed, and I'm caught up in grief and sorrow and fears for what will be.

Jayden calls me to keep drawing and give my drawings away.  He calls me to still hunt for the flowers in my life, and give them away too.  To God, to others ... because of joy ... because of love.

So today, may I pause for just a moment over bedraggled dandelions and scrubby purple flowers held in mud-stained fists.  May I catch a whiff of wonder as I take them in my hands, hear the words "for you," and place them in a crystal vase.

May I receive Jayden's love as I receive God's - fully, abundantly, so I can give it back again.  So I can bring God my bedraggled wildflowers and spread the aroma of his love to everyone I meet.

May I worship God in a dozen little ways that are unique to me - with the drawings and wildflowers of my heart - in the midst of my day.  And may I share that love with others.

Because maybe, just maybe, my drawings are on the frig of heaven and my flowers are in a crystal vase beside Him.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

How to Obey God

Hi Friends!

Last night Bryan and I started studying the Gospel of Mark with our two oldest, Bethany and Joelle.  We printed out the first few chapters on regular paper, double-spaced, got out a bunch of colored pens, and dug in to the text.  What we found is that God wants to baptize us with the Holy Spirit - He wants to change us from the inside out.  Our job is not to change ourselves through sheer willpower.  We only need to make straight paths for God's Spirit by confessing, repenting, and letting GOD do the work in our hearts.  

So as I've been pondering what we talked about, I was reminded of this story:

It was the size of a watermelon.  A very large watermelon.  I stuck my hand through the huge hole in the screen door and hollered for my husband.  “Aren’t you ever going to fix this screen?”  

I heard mumbling from the other room.


“Maybe this weekend,” Bryan yelled back.

This weekend?  Was he crazy?  A hundred flies would buzz through the hole before then.  Or a mouse could get through.  Or even the neighbor’s cat.  I stood up and put my hands on my hips.  “I want to do it now.”

“Go ahead,” Bryan answered.  “The new screen’s in the garage.”

It wasn’t exactly the answer I was hoping for, but I wasn’t going to wait any longer.  “Fine,” I grumbled, “I’ll do it myself.  No problem.”  I slapped my hands together and headed for the garage.  There, as promised, was the brand new hole-less screen.  

I tromped back into the house with the screen in my hand.  Within minutes I had the door removed and the old screen out and thrown away.  Now all I had to do was squeeze the new screen into the metal frame and replace the door.  It seemed like a simple task.  

I laid the screen on the frame and pushed, and shoved, and tweaked, and groaned.  But the screen wouldn’t stay in the frame.  Finally, I took a butter knife and tried to wedge the mesh into the thin crease.  I pushed the screen in.  It came out.  I pushed it in sideways.  It came out again.  I smashed the stainless steel knife into the mesh and pushed it into the frame with all my might.  It stayed in for a moment, then slipped out.  For forty-five minutes I tried everything I could think of to squeeze the screen into the frame, but nothing work.

Finally, I threw the butter knife onto the ground.  “I can’t do this!” I shrieked.  “It’s impossible!”

Bryan ambled into the room.  “What’s wrong?”

I sniffed back tears of frustration.  “I can’t get this stupid screen into the frame.”  I grabbed the butter knife and stabbed it in Bryan’s direction.

He grinned.  “You’re using a butter knife?”

I crossed my arms.  “Yeah.  So?”

“There’s a tool for that, you know.”

I glared at him.  “You’re kidding.”

“We can go over to Home Depot and pick it up now, if you want.”

“Of course I want to,” I shouted.

Ten minutes later we were standing before a bin of 79-cent tools.  I stared at the small plastic sticks attached to miniature wheels.  “This is it?” I asked.

“That’s it,” Bryan smiled.

Less than a dollar later, Bryan and I were headed home with tool in hand.  Once I got back, changing the screen took only a few seconds. I couldn’t believe how my impossible task had suddenly become so easy.  All because I had the proper tool.

Sometimes I feel like following God, and obeying his will, is a lot like changing a window screen.  Without the right tool, it’s almost impossible.  I like to think that I can obey God through sheer will power.  But after struggling, groaning, and trying with all my might, I find the hole-filled screen of my life far from fixed.  What I need is not the butter knife of will power, but the new heart that God promises.  I need to lay down my self-sufficiency and pick up complete reliance on God.  I need to stop thinking that I can fulfill God’s dreams for me if I just try hard enough.  Instead, I must depend on the right tool – on God’s grace and mercy in my life.  Only then will I be able to accomplish the tasks God has for me.  

Ezekiel 36:26 (NIV) says, “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.”  Through grace, God gives me what I need to obey Him.  He only asks that I be willing to give up my old heart of stone . . . or in this case, of stainless steel!