Welcome to the blog of author Marlo Schalesky!

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Are You on a Journey to Bethlehem?

Hi Friends,

In this week before Christmas, as I continue to recover from surgery (talk about a LONG journey!), I am pondering Mary's trip to Bethlehem.  Some of you, like me, are on a difficult journey right now.  You're stumbling along, heavy and weary. Take heart!  Mary traveled a long way too, and sometimes the trip to Bethlehem, for her and for us, is a long one.  Sometimes it's not easy ride to come to the place where Jesus is born anew in our lives.

So, for those on a journey, here are some words of encouragement from Wrestling with Wonder:

Excerpt from Chapter 3:

Too often, I think, when we approach the Christmas story, we are caught up in the star, the angels, the babe in the manger. We forget that it took a nearly-one-hundred-mile journey, while pregnant, to get there. That could not have been an easy trip.
            If Mary and Joseph traveled through Samaria, it would have been eighty miles. But Jews traveling through Samaria weren’t safe and were unlikely to get lodging, so Mary and Joseph may have taken the longer route in the Jordan Valley. They may have traveled with others, or alone. They may have walked or, as tradition asserts, Joseph could have led his donkey while Mary rode. It could have taken four days, if they went through Samaria and Joseph walked fast. It could have taken over a week if they went the long way and went slowly for Mary.
            The Bible doesn’t tell us. It doesn’t say how they traveled or how long it took. It doesn’t tell us if they had to stop every couple hours for Mary to rest. It doesn’t say how Mary felt or what Joseph did or that this was a hard, painful, difficult journey for a pregnant girl.
            It only tells us that they traveled to Bethlehem while Mary was pregnant. In stark, simple language, Luke 2:5 says, “He [Joseph] went there [to Bethlehem] to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child.” That’s it. Mary went. By foot, by donkey, alone with Joseph, or in caravan? We don’t know. But we do know that they didn’t travel by automobile on a paved road. We know it wasn’t a couple-hour jaunt on a pleasant day. It could not have been a simple journey.
            And yet, despite the difficulty, there’s also nothing mentioned about how God intervened to smooth their travels. There’s nothing about being carried on angel’s wings or being magically transported. Only that she went. The rest is up to us to discern, to consider, to ponder how God’s declaration of Mary’s blessedness starts with a difficult journey, perhaps on donkey-back, while very pregnant.
            Highly favored. Blessed. On the back of a donkey on a dusty journey away from home. I hold those two images in tension and realize that I must rethink the meaning of God’s blessing in my life. Clearly, “blessing” does not mean “easy.” It does not mean comfort and luxury and prosperity and ease. It means a difficult journey. It means challenge and pain and discomfort and sometimes danger.
            That’s the beginning of blessedness, of being highly favored by the Most High God.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Finding Hope in Life's Stink

Hi Friends,

I'm still recovering from surgery (wow, this is a LONG, SLOW recovery!), and have been thinking about how we so often encounter God not in the "pretty" places of life, but in those very places we least expect Him to be - in the stink and mess and chaos and just-plain-yuckiness of life.  If we look, that's where we'll find Him.  It's that way in my life, it was that way in Mary's, and here's hope that it will be that way for you too!

An excerpt from Wrestling with Wonder, about finding hope, finding Him, in life's stinky places:

Who is this God whose Son is born in a stable? Who is he who is found by lowly shepherds lying in an animal’s feeding trough, dressed not in robes but in rags? Who is he who comes to the place we don’t expect and looks so little as we imagined?
He is the God of the Barn.
We encounter him in the places we don’t expect him to be. Consider the following biblical encounters:
—Job encountered God in a storm, while sitting on an ash heap (Job 2:8; 38:1).
—Abraham encountered God outside the wicked city of Sodom in the heat of the day (Gen. 18:1).
—Jacob encountered God alone in the darkness, in the middle of the night (Gen. 32:22-24).
—Moses encountered God in the wilderness, on the far side of the desert (Exod. 3:1).
—Elijah encountered God in the cave, while running for his life (1 Kings 19:9).
—Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego encountered God in the fire (Dan. 3:25). 
—And Mary encountered him in a stable . . .…
God’s glory is revealed in unexpected places. It is seen in the storm, from the ash heap, at the edge of a wicked city, in the heat, in the darkness, in the wilderness, in the cave, in the fires of life. There we find him. In the barn. 
The angel’s words to the shepherds echo down through the centuries to us. God whispers, “You will find a him wrapped in cloths and lying in a feeding trough” (Luke 2:12). Because Jesus is born where life stinks. He comes to us not in our palaces but in the stinky, smelly, dirty, unadorned places in life. And there, only there, do we discover something deep and wondrous about the God we follow. We discover that he is the God who takes our life-yuck and transforms it. He takes the places in life where nothing is as we wanted it to be and makes them the very place we encounter the Messiah born in us.
In life’s stink, mess, noise, dirt, and poking straw . . .…
—He is the God of Stink 
—He is the God of Mess
—He is the God of Noise 
—He is the God of Dirt 
—He is the God of Discomfort
—He is the God of the Barn ...
This is real God—born in the stink, in the noise, in the places that are not as they should be. Born to transform them in you, in me.

So, come, the angels are singing. God is calling. You will find me in the stable . . .