Welcome to the blog of author Marlo Schalesky!

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Dad Vs. Godzilla: What God Really Wants from You

Hi Friends,

It's Bryan's birthday this Sunday, and I thought it would be fun to share a story from his college days.  This is one of the first stories he told me that I turned into an article.

So, if you're wanting to know what God really wants from you, read on . . .

“Aw,  com’on Dad, not now,” I groaned.  I shifted my legs across the couch and flipped the channel between an old rerun of Godzilla and the pro bowler’s tour.  I’d only been home for two days and already Dad wanted me to work on the car.  “It’s Saturday.  Can’t I just relax?” 
“Car’s gotta be fixed,” Dad mumbled and walked back to the garage.  Tools clanked as he began working on the old Chevy Caprice. 
I shook my head and let out a long sigh.  What did Dad want my help for anyway?  He could do just fine without me.  After all, I came home to visit and to have a break from my hectic schedule.  I certainly didn’t intend to get elbow-deep in an old junker.  I flicked the remote control again and watched Godzilla stomp through Tokyo.  Smash, crash, roar ... the same ol’ Godzilla.  I turned off the television and closed my eyes. 
My head bounced as something landed on the couch.  I looked up.  Mom sat about a foot from me with a huge load of laundry piled at her side.  She stared at me for a moment, frowned, then proceeded to fold socks. 
Finally, she put the socks aside.  “You know, he just wants to spend time with you while you’re here,” she murmured.  Then, she stood and returned to the kitchen.
I sat up and thought about Mom’s words.  Could it be that Dad just wanted my company?  I knew that he didn’t need my help.  After all, I knew much less about cars than he did.  But he had still asked to come out to the garage with him.  I had to find out if Mom was right.  Slowly, I got up from the couch and trudged out to the garage.
“Hey Dad,” I muttered.  “Want some help with that?” 
Dad pulled his head out from the engine and wiped the back of one greasy hand over his forehead.  Slowly, a big smile replaced the sad look that had been on his face moments before. “Grab me a five eighths wrench over there,” he motioned to the toolbox with his chin, his hands embedded again in the Chevy’s engine. 
I rolled up my sleeves and retrieved the wrench.  For the rest of the day, Dad and I worked side-by-side, sweating, grunting, and sharing little bits of our thoughts over the old engine.  By the end of the day, my face was as grease-smeared as Dad’s, and I had a long tear in my shirt where the Chevy had gotten the better of me.  But, the time with Dad had been worth it.  Mom was right.  It had been a great day, much better than reruns of Godzilla.
The next day, as I sat in church and listened to the Pastor speak about how God has adopted us as His children, I thought about my day with Dad.  And I wondered, was my Heavenly Father like my earthly one?  God could do anything He wanted without my help.  But maybe He, like Dad, asked me to be involved with the things He was doing just so I could spend time with Him, and come out looking like Him at the end of the job. 
How many times did I miss out on God’s fellowship because I didn’t want to be inconvenienced?  All of a sudden, little excuses like “I’m too tired,” “I do enough already,” and “My help isn’t really needed anyway,” seemed silly to me.  How could a person be too tired for God, or get too much time with Him?  Had I been choosing Godzilla over God?
I thought about the women’s retreat I’d been asked to help with, the visit to my neighbor down the street that I kept putting off, the woman at work who needed help moving.  It was time to make some changes.  It was time to roll up my sleeves and spend some quality work time with “Dad.”

Needless to say, I don’t watch much Godzilla anymore.  When opportunities to work beside my heavenly Father, or my earthly one, come along, I want grab the tools and say, “Let’s go!” whether it’s Saturday or not. 

Thursday, January 23, 2014

The Truth About Persistent Prayer

Hi Friends,

Tomorrow is Bethany's birthday!!  I can't believe our firstborn will already be 14.  Where have the years gone?  As I was sitting here planning our shopping and cake and perhaps a fun trip to Monterey, I remembered something that Bethany taught me in her preschool years.  I thought it would be fun to share it here.

So, this is for anyone who wonders why they ought to keep praying for something, for those who feel they have to beat down the door of heaven to get God to answer (you don't!), for those wondering if they need to earn God's "yes" through persistent prayer … and if not, why pray persistently at all.

Here ya go:

Only One Prayer?

I hung up the phone and bit my lip.  Bethany wasn’t going to like this.  Not one bit. 
She sauntered into the room.  “Who was that, Mommy?” 
“Jacqueline’s Mom.” 
Bethany clapped her hands.  “Really!?  Are we going to her house to play?” 
I sighed and held out my arms to draw Bethany close.  “No, Sweetie.  And do you remember how Mommy told you that Jacqueline signed up for the last spot in your preschool class next year?”  Of course she remembered.  She’d been talking about it for weeks.
“Yes!  I can’t wait.”
A rock settled in my chest.  “Well, Jacqueline’s Mom said there was a mix up at the preschool and there’s not room for Jacqueline after all.”
Bethany’s face dropped into a mask of sorrow.  “No Jacqueline.”
“I’m sorry.”
Her bottom lip turned.  “But, but …”
“It’ll be okay.”
“But that’s not fair.”  A fat tear rolled down her cheek.  “Can’t you fix it, Mommy?  Can’t you do something?”
I brushed back her hair with my fingers.  “I can’t.  But . . .”  I paused.  “But you could pray.”
She sniffed.  “I could ask God.”
“Yes, but you know—“
“I’ll do it now.  Dear God, please make a place for Jacqueline to be in my preschool class.  Amen.”
I kissed her forehead and thought of all the obstacles to a “yes” from God.  State law dictated that only a certain number of students were allowed in a class.  The number was filled.  And at this late date, it was highly unlikely that someone would drop out.  But still, God was God.
Two weeks later, Jacqueline’s mom called again.  “You aren’t going to believe this,” she began.  “You know how I’ve been trying for two weeks to get in touch with the people at the preschool.”
“Any luck?”
“Nothing but voice mail.  Until today.”
I held my breath.
“The teacher called me this morning.  It’s amazing.  A spot’s opened for Jacqueline.” 
“Wonderful!”  I whooped into the phone.  
Minutes later I went into Bethany’s room and told her the good news.  She jumped up and shouted even louder than I had.  “Wow.  It took only one prayer!”  Then, she danced around the room.
I laughed.
She grinned at me.  “I thought it would take a hundred.” 
I reached over and ruffled her hair.  “Remember how Mommy always says that she hears you the first time?  Well, God hears you the first time too.”
“I know.  I know it now.” 
I sat on the bed and watched Bethany return to playing with her toys.   Only one prayer.  Her words tickled my heart.  One prayer, and God heard, and answered, and moved.  Did I, too, know that God was that near, so near that he hears me the first time?  Or was I living as if I had to earn a “yes” from God by the number of my prayers?  I knew that God encourages us to be persistent in prayer.  After all, I’d recently studied the parable of the persistent widow in Luke 18.  There, Jesus told the story of a widow who consistently pled for justice from an unjust judge.  Eventually the judge granted her request.  But God isn’t an unjust judge who has to be pestered into answering my prayers.  He doesn't tell the parable to say God is like the judge, but rather HOW MUCH MORE will God answer, respond, give us what we need when we ask  because he isn't unjust?!  Even the unjust judge answers.  How much more will our Heavenly Father, who loves us deeply, passionately, and unconditionally?
Bethany’s exuberant reaction showed me that prayer shouldn’t be a way to beat down the door of heaven.  It’s not a means to gain brownie points in order to cash in for what I'm asking for.  It isn't "payment" for a positive response.  So, what is prayer?  And why does Jesus want us to keep on praying if we’re heard the very first time?
As I sat and watched Bethany play, I started to understand that prayer is not so much a duty as a GIFT.  It's not a means to earn a "yes" from God but rather an opportunity to bring our sorrows, our hopes, our needs to Him, and lay them at His feet as often as we think about them.  It’s a way, not to twist God’s arm, but to offer our hearts, and so ourselves, continually before Him, and in doing so to surrender to His will.  We pray persistently because God is available to us persistently, continually, faithfully.  He wants to receive the burdens we carry as often as we are willing to lift them to him.

As often as we pray, He hears, He answers, He moves, even when the answers aren’t as obvious as a place in preschool.  We pray because God is so near that He hears us, every single time our hearts are burdened and we turn toward Him.  He is there.  He is near.  He loves us that much.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Life Lessons from a Baby -- Happy Birthday, Jordyn (age 3)

Hi Friends,

Well, yesterday was Jordyn's birthday.  She's now a three-year-old!  We had a fun day of going to the Monterey Bay Aquarium where we saw the penguins, the jellyfish, the big tank full of fish, touched some sea urchins, held some hermit crabs, and watched as the sardines swarmed to their food.  Jordyn was mesmerized by the wonder and beauty of God's creation in the seas.

Wow, we really do have an amazing creator-God!

And while we were celebrating Jordyn's third birthday, I was reminded of a few of the things she taught me when she was first born.  I thought I'd share her new baby lessons again today.

So, here ya go:
New baby lessons:

1) It's easiest to rest when you're tucked into the arms of someone who loves you. May I remember that I am tucked in the arms of God today, he loves me, I am not alone. What can be better than that?

2) (during her first real bath): Becoming clean can be scary, so it's important to trust the One doing the washing, even when the waters splash up around you. May I relax and trust God to make me clean, even when circumstances seem scary or new!

3) It's easier to be changed if you're not thrashing about fighting the procedure. So, next time I've made a mess and God wants to change me, may I remember to be still and know that He's God.

4) After Baby had gas one night. What I learned: It's hard to take in the good stuff you need (wisdom, God's Word, peace, love) when you're full of hot air. :-)

5) Being hungry makes you cranky. So, when I'm anxious or irritable, perhaps I'm really just hungry for more of God. May I turn to Him to fill me!

6) When you know you're loved, you can take a lot more poking and prodding (baby puts up with A LOT from her big brother who just adores her -- note: this one hasn't changed in 3 years). So, how is God prodding you lately? Remember, it's because He loves and adores you!

7) When you're feeling well fed, you can put up with a lot. Make sure you're taking in plenty of God's Word and wisdom because life rarely goes as planned! (Learned while filling baby Jordyn up with milk at the urgent care while finding out that Bethany's wrist was broken.)

8) Life lesson from baby delivery: Be wise and be ready because you don't really know how much time you have (learned after dilly-dallying at home and getting to the hospital only 45 minutes before baby was born).

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Did You Miss God's Will? Maybe not . . .

Hi Friends,

So, Bryan's going to be teaching at FIX (our church's junior high youth group) tonight, so I've been looking for some fun stories for him to share about Bethany and Joelle (who are in that group).  And with all the cold weather around the country (and it's cold here today too than it's been), I thought this one would be fun to share there … and here too.

So, if you've ever felt like you've failed.  If you ever thought you must have missed God's will because you didn't hear Him clearly enough.  If you worry you've missed His plan for you.  If you just wish God would tell you "yes" or "no" … then this story might help you to see things in a new way.  

Read on, and see what you think!

Got Goosebumps?
We were late.  Again.  I put my hands on my hips and called up to Bethany’s room.  “Aren’t you ready, yet?”
She peeked out from the doorway to her room.  “What should I wear?”
“You aren’t even dressed?”
“Should I wear my black tank top or the long sleeved shirt with the horse on it?”
I pointed toward the window where rain pelted the glass with steady intensity.  “Did you look outside?”
Her glance followed my gesture.  “Oh.”  She paused and frowned.  “But I wanted to wear the tank top.”
“Wear whatever you want, just hurry up.  We’ve got to go.”
Three minutes later, Bethany came down the stairs wearing her tank top. 
My eyebrows raised, but I didn’t say a word, even though I knew the tank top wasn’t the wisest choice for a cold, rainy day.  She’d learn.
And she did.  Three miles down the road, goosebumps lined her arms and she was shivering.  “I-I should have worn the long sleeves.”
“B-but I asked you.  You c-could have told me.”
I glanced back at her.  “Yes, I could have.  But I want you to learn to be wise.  Next time, you’ll know what to do.”
She nodded and rubbed her hands over her arms.
As we drove the rest of the way (with the heat turned up), I recalled a verse about wisdom from Proverbs 8:11 (NIV): “For wisdom is more precious than rubies, and nothing you desire can compare with her,” and I realized that oftentimes I’m a lot like Bethany in my relationship with God.
I want answers, not wisdom.  I want to know if should do A or B.  Should I take this job or that one?  Should I buy this house or that condo?  Should I go here or there, do this or that?
But what if God was less interested in my choices than in my growth?  Proverbs 4:7-8 (NIV) says, “Wisdom is supreme; therefore get wisdom. Though it cost all you have, get understanding.  Esteem her, and she will exalt you; embrace her, and she will honor you.”  For Bethany, wisdom cost some goosebumps.  And to me, that was worth it.  It was more important that she learn to look out the window and then choose her clothes wisely, than for her to be warm and comfortable on our trip to the store.  So, what if, like any good parent, God wanted me to be able to look out the window, see the rain, and be able to choose wisely too. 
As I considered my actions with Bethany that morning, I began to see that my own prayer life needed to change.  I realized that it's better to seek wisdom than guidance. Not that seeking guidance is wrong, just like it was fine for Bethany to ask my opinion about her wardrobe choices.  But wisdom, like precious gems, is even better. So, my prayers needed to shift away from "should I do A or B" and more toward "Help me to grow in wisdom so I will understand if I should do A or B."
My eyes caught Bethany’s in the rearview mirror.  She was still shivering.  I motioned toward the back of the car.  “There’s a sweatshirt in the back for you.”
“Th-thanks.  The tank top was a dumb idea.”
I grinned as Bethany grabbed the sweatshirt and slipped into it.  Dumb, yes.  But not disobedient.  Her goosebumps didn’t mean that she’d done wrong,  just that she needed to learn.  And maybe it was the same for me.  Just because I go through something hard doesn't mean that I didn't hear God when I decided to embark on that path. Perhaps at times He, too, just points to the rain and allows me to proceed into something unwise because he knows that in healing from that experience, He can make me wiser. Perhaps He plans to weave that experience into the fabric of who I am to make me more like Christ. Bad experiences, like Bethany’s goosebumps, can become real wisdom-builders.  And God’s love is so great that He will not only transform the difficult experiences into something useful, but He will also grow me so I can be closer to Him and become the wise and mature person that He envisions me to be.
And that’s worth a little chill on a rainy day.